Monday, 29 December 2014

Tunisian Crochet Tote Bag

I actually finished this tote bag quite a while ago. I was just waiting to post it until after I got it lined. Alas, I haven't had the time to line it yet, but I wanted to include it in my 2014 posts, so here it is:
This is my very first Tunisian crochet (afghan stitch) project. It turned out bigger than the directions said, probably because I used a different yarn. The instructions don't call for it to be lined, but if I were to throw a set of keys or something similar into this bag, I would be concerned about it poking through the stitches. I have bought the fabric already, but I was waiting until I got my serger back from servicing so that I could serge the seams. By the time that happened, it was time to start getting ready for Christmas and I haven't had the opportunity to sew the lining. I would like to add a zippered pocket in the lining as well, to put car keys and maybe my cell phone in. 
The project came from this book:

I bought a second Tunisian crochet hook during one shopping trip to Michael's, so I can pursue further projects in this book. Eventually, I'd like to get a full set of hooks with the extension cords for doing wider projects.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Very Vegan Christmas

Here is today's menu:
  • Garlic bread
  • Old Fashioned Bread and Celery Stuffing
  • Jellied Cranberries (from a can)
  • Spinach Salad 
  • Honey-Mustard Poppy Seed Dressing
  • Brussels Sprouts with Melty Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Brown Gravy
  • Gluten Nuggets
  • Special T Loaf
  • Buttercup Squash Casserole
  • Carrot Pudding with Sweet Cream Sauce
The Spinach Salad and the Special T Loaf are from this cookbook:

I have to admit that I didn't really like the smell when I finished the Special T Loaf. It smelled like leftover meatloaf. That's why I decided to make the Gluten Nuggets as well, in case it tasted like it smelled. Gluten Nuggets are my "old standby" for holiday meals. However, the Special T Loaf did end up being rather tasty (better than it smelled), especially with the brown gravy on top. However, it is a rather expensive entrĂ©e: walnuts, pecans and two packages of Mori-Nu tofu go into this recipe. It's a mock-up of the Special K Loaf that used to be well known in Adventist vegetarian circles, though I have to admit that I'm not sure why the Special K Loaf recipe ever saw the light of day. It might have tasted good (it was my ex-husband's one major cooking accomplishment), but with all the eggs and cottage cheese, I certainly wouldn't consider it healthy vegetarian fare. You can see a sample of the original recipe here.
The Honey-Mustard Poppy Seed Dressing was from this cookbook:

Don't be deceived by the title  - there's no honey in this salad dressing.
The Melty Cheese recipe is found in this cookbook:

The Brown Gravy is from this cookbook:

I found the carrot pudding recipe here, though I modified it somewhat, and will continue to do so as I wasn't entirely satisfied with the end product. I added the seasonings found in this recipe, but I think I'll switch the cloves to nutmeg next time and cut back on all three spices as it was too strong. Instead of the margarine, I used apple sauce. I replaced the 1 cup of brown sugar with 3/4 cup of Sucanat and used whole wheat flour in place of white flour. Next time, I think I'll try whole wheat pastry flour or maybe spelt flour as it was a little too heavy. Maybe steaming it for 3 hours is not necessary either as a couple of the other recipes I looked at only called for 2 hours. I also forgot the dates. The cream sauce that I used to top the carrot pudding was a conglomeration of some leftover Silk Creamer I had in the fridge, some raw cashews, a little honey (yes, I do use some honey occasionally, though I could just as easily have used brown rice syrup or agave nectar), water, vanilla and cornstarch whizzed in the blender and then heated on the stove till thickened. I've got to look for a proper recipe for this for next year.
The Gluten Nuggets are from Recipes of Friendship by Katie van Petten. I wasn't able to find this one on Amazon, nor was I able to find the Atco Blue Flame 2011 Holiday Collection, from which the Buttercup Squash Casserole was taken. But I don't know if that one was worth repeating. The apple cider vinegar made it just too tangy and this recipe just can't compare to the deliciousness of the Sweet Potato and Caramelized Apple dish that I've made previously from this same cookbook.
So that was Christmas dinner 2014. There were only 6 of us for dinner and unfortunately, there was probably enough food to feed three times that many. I should have sent food home with my guests. I guess I won't be cooking for the next week or so. :-)

Thursday, 18 December 2014


I finally received my order from Tristan Italian Threads:

14 spools of Aurifil's Aurilux 36 weight polyester thread. I'm not even sure if Aurifil makes this stuff any more as it's not on their website, but I have found a couple of vendors that sell it. I think it will be great for long arm machine quilting. I don't honestly have a specific plan for each of these threads, but I had to order enough to make the shipping charges worthwhile, didn't I? 
These two are for the Bluenose II Pixel quilt. The pictures don't do this thread justice. I tried numerous different shots, employing different settings on the camera, but I couldn't get the shots I wanted. Especially not with the plastic wrap still on the spools. It reflects too much light. And I don't want to take the plastic wrap off until I'm ready to use the thread. I only took it off this spool because (hopefully) it will be used soon. No, I'm not done the pixel quilt yet, but I'm hoping once the Christmas rush is over, I"ll be able to get back to it. 
The pink thread third from the right on the bottom row is destined for the Unbroken quilt. It's the only solid colour in the bunch. Second from the right is a red and green that will work for a Christmas quilt. That's a brown and gold spool next to it, and I realized that's probably the ideal colour for a Western Michigan University quilt. I've been researching as I have a great nephew who has already been accepted at WMU for next school year and I think he should get a quilt for his high school graduation. Brown and gold are WMU's school colours. 
And speaking of great nephews, I did a little research on consanguinity (isn't that a fancy word - it means blood relationships) and apparently it's also acceptable to call great nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews (or uncles and aunts, for that matter). There seems to be an indication that "great" is preferable to the British and Canadians, and "grand" to Americans. Now back to thread...
Third from the left on the bottom row is a red and white thread that will work well for a Canada Day quilt, Remembrance Day quilt or a QOV.
I'm sure I'll find uses for all of them eventually. Meanwhile, they are just pretty to look at. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Far Above Rubies

Amy is the daughter of friends. She is graduating from university this December and has already got a job to start in January, but it's in a community 134 km (about 83 miles) from her parents' home. So she will also be moving into her first apartment. To celebrate these milestones, I'm having a graduation/apartment-warming party for her. This quilt will be my gift to her.
When I started pondering what quilt to make for Amy, I came across this pattern. The title "Far Above Rubies" comes from a phrase in Proverbs 31:
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Amy is a Christian young woman and it is my wish for her to be a "Proverbs 31 woman." It's also my wish that, when the time comes, she will choose for her life companion a man who will recognize that her value is "far above rubies" and treat her accordingly. So I felt that this was the right quilt for Amy. The name of each block is actually derived from a story in the Old Testament. 
Amy's favourite colour used to be blue, but I double checked with her mother before choosing fabric for this quilt. "Teal" is now her favourite. Do you know how hard it is to find "teal" fabric, especially when you're shopping online? And to make sure that the fabrics you select will actually look good together when they arrive in the mail, and not just looking good on the computer screen? I ended up going with more aqua/turquoise than teal. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the fabrics I selected was sold out by the time I made my purchase and I ended up making an alternate selection of a polka dot fabric. I just wasn't happy with it when it arrived, so bought a different fabric at my LQS. That's the light aqua fabric and I'm very happy with it. 
If you want to make this quilt, you'll want to print the templates out, even if you, like me, don't like using templates. Some of the blocks, like Job's Tears, have funky shapes, and some of them, like Garden of Eden, have really odd measurements. The weird thing about the templates is that the dotted lines for cutting did not show up when I printed them. I don't know if it's my printer, my computer or the templates that are the problem. Most of the blocks also have rotary cutting instructions, but they are not the easiest to follow. And some of these blocks are very challenging and definitely not ones I would want to do a whole quilt of.. Lots of bias seams and quite a few Y seams as well. 
When I did the Solomon's Puzzle block, I used my
Marti Michell Perfect Patchwork Template, Drunkard's Path, Package of Four. I've had it for a year and a half or longer and this is the first time I've used it. Believe it or not, I only had one pucker that I had to rip out. Beginner's luck? I actually found this block easier than some of the others. But again, I'm not sure if I'd want to do a whole quilt of it. 
If you compare my quilt closely with the sample picture, you'll notice that I substituted the David & Goliath block for the Children of Israel block. I intend to use the Children of Israel block in another quilt, so left it out of this one. 
Here are pictures of all of the blocks, with their names:
Jacob's Ladder  -  Job's Tears
Dove at the Window  -  Garden of Eden
Joseph's Coat  -  Walls of Jericho
Wings of Eagles
David & Goliath  -  Solomon's Puzzle
The pantograph pattern I chose to use on this quilt is called Lily of the Valley, which is not only a lovely little flower, but is also referred to in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, it's got a lot of corners and angles, which require more time than curves on the long arm. It took me 5 hours to complete the quilting. At $30/hour, that was $150! Ouch! If I'd used a really simple pantograph like Bumpity, it would have only taken me about half that time, but I really don't want to have to limit my creative expression because of cost. So I decided to see what I could do differently. Checking online, I found a woman who rents her long arm machine for $75 a day. She lives out in the country, over an hour's drive from here, but I drive that distance to get to Edmonton anyway when I rent at the long arm studio. I will probably be exploring that option with my next quilt. I'll have to provide my own thread and pantographs, but I'll be saving so much on the actual rental that it will be worth it. 
I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but I think this is one of the prettiest quilts I've made. But, to keep me humble, I got some major puckers in the quilt when I did the quilting. I ripped out a couple, but didn't even notice the others until I got it home and was applying the binding. <sigh> However, at $30 an hour, I probably wouldn't have taken the time to rip them all out anyway!