Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quilt in ONE Weekend! Part 1

Ever since I've been home with the boys full time, I've been sewing more than ever. Sometimes for fun but usually to try to make something for a fraction of the cost that it would be to buy. Probably the one sewing project I'm most proud of was my baby car seat recovering project. I used a super cute monkey print fabric with a coordinating stripe and some plain brown flannel.

Around Christmas, it occurred to me that the leftovers would make something cute for my nephew whose nickname is "monkey".  Of course I didn't have nearly enough scraps to actually make something useful, so when I saw a big piece of both the monkey fabric and coordinating stripe in the remnants pile at JoAnn's, I snapped them up. I never did end up making anything with it for Christmas and the fabric has been staring at me every time I open my project drawer. As his 3rd birthday was coming up, I thought I'd better do something with the fabric before he was too old to appreciate monkeys!

After some thought, I decided I wanted to try my hand at quilting. Now my mother-in-law is a super talented and experienced quilter - who has offered to sit down with me and do some lessons. But, of course I would make the decision to do this ONE WEEK before his birthday and the ONE WEEK that the in-laws were out of the state. So, I was on my own.

Knowing that I had never before quilted and I was under a BIG time restriction, I decided to go for the simplest possible pattern-- one piece for the top and one for the bottom with some machine quilting to fancy it up! Unfortunately, even with my remnants, I didn't have near enough fabric to do the job, so back to Jo-Ann's (armed with my coupons, of course!) I went.  There I found a related print with monkeys in squares and a coordinating brown flannel with dots. I decided to go ahead and do the quilt out of these and do something different with my remnants (I'll get to that in part 4!). I found these and other super cute prints in the quilting corner of the fabric store.


The hardest part of the whole project was holding my breath and getting started. I had to believe that I could actually do this-- and I DID IT! While I would say that I am advanced beginner in sewing, I was able to pretty easily complete this project. I expect that any beginner with a basic understanding of sewing and their machine will be able to do this.

I estimate that I spent about 8-10 hours (including some research) to complete this -- spread over 3 days, doing a few hours each day. If you are more experienced (or have less "help" from 6 year olds) you can probably complete this in far less time. I would think that most people would be able to finish this in one weekend-- from start to finish!

The instructions I am providing will result in a finished quilt size of approximately 45" x 60". This fits toddler sized beds (or cribs-- but not recommended for use by babies IN the crib due to suffocation hazard). This is also the perfect (in my opinion) size for a lap/throw quilt.

Part 1: Prepping/cutting your fabrics, adding contrasting border (if desired) to front, layering the quilt, basting
Part 2: Simple machine quilting
Part 3: Binding
Part 4: Optional matching pillow project!

Materials for a toddler/crib/throw sized quilt:

2 yards front material (43" wide)-- I recommend a busy, fun print
2 yards backing material (43" wide)-- a solid or subdued print
1 yards edging material (43" wide) -- coordinating/contrasting  pattern that goes with front & back fabrics
1 piece of "baby" sized batting: 45" x 60" (I used "Warm & Natural" 100% cotton)
coordinating thread
basic sewing machine
straight pins
safety pins
sharp scissors

Recommended (but not required):
Rotary cutter
Cutting Mat

Part 1: Cutting/Prepping the Quilt (note: 1/4" seam allowances are used in all steps)

A) Leave width of backing fabric and cut length to 58". Save scrap for front border and part 4 (if desired).
B) Option 1 Front: No border-- repeat cutting from part A. Skip to step C
     Option 2 Front: Contrasting border-- cut front fabric width to 36.5", cut length to 51.5".
             Complete steps B 1-4.

       B-1) From your BACKING fabric SCRAP, cut 6, 2" inch wide strips from edge to edge (this is where a rotary tool and ruler are SUPER helpful!)
       B-2) Lay two pieces of border wrong sides together. Stitch the short (2") end, on ONE side only. Repeat 1x.  You should have 4 pieces-- two that are 43" x 2" and two that are 86"(ish) x 2" long. Press seams open.

       B-3) Starting on a short side, align one short border piece with short edge of front quilt fabric, wrong sides together. Pin. Sew, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Repeat for opposite short edge. Press seam towards center of quilt

       B-4) Arrange a long border piece with long edge of quilt. Pin. Sew. Trim excess from each end. Press seam towards center of quilt.

C) On a clean level surface (freshly vacuumed floor, for example) lay out your backing fabric, right side DOWN. Take care to smooth any wrinkles. On top, carefully align the batting layer. Next, carefully align the top fabric, right side UP. Take your time to insure that all layers are smooth and wrinkle free and relatively even to each other. The batting will be wider than all of the fabric layer, do not worry! We will be adding a large 3" border to our finished quilt in step 3!

Note batting clearly visible, evenly on all sides.

D) About every 6 inches, use a safety pin to pin all the layers (top, batting, backing) together. Work slowly and carefully to ensure that you keep all the layers smooth and wrinkle free. Check your work when you are finished! Remove & repin as necessary. I know quilters swear by special curved safety pins for this but I already had a big pack of plain jane straight safety pins. I didn't have any difficulty with them but I've heard the special quilter's ones are much sharper. If you have a particularly heavy fabric, you might want to consider these.

You are now ready for Part 2: Simple Machine Quilting! See you tomorrow!

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post below!

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Kale Chips!!

Okay, I figured I owed you some nutritional penance to make up for the bunny snack mix recipe I posted-- here it is (and relatively painless!)--- kale chips!

If you are like me, you've been hearing about these as they've been rocketing in popularity over the last year or so. I'm never one to jump on the bandwagon right away (especially when it comes to food fads!). But once again, the box of veggies that magically appears on my doorstep once a month has forced me to get out of my food rut and try something new.

A few weeks ago we ended up with not one or two but THREE big bunches of kale in the box. I took that as a sign that I really needed to try some kale recipes. Even though I've really been enjoying the chard (I even planted some in my garden!) the dark green and potentially bitter kale leaves still had me apprehensive.

After rejecting an assortment of recipes for soups and salads, I came across recipe after recipe after recipe for kale chips. After the beet chip debacle, I was a little leery. But it really seemed like a veggie chip recipe that has a minimum of fussing and would get consistent results. Turns out that you can do (pretty much) anything to kale and the results are (practically) fool-proof!

If you haven't tried kale chips, they are worth an experiment. Once cooked, they have the texture of the lightest potato chip ever. Just very light and crisp. A great snack!

For this recipe, I'm using one bunch of kale. After the first test batch passed the rigorous testing from the hubby (a noted crunch-o-holic), I found that Trader Joe's (and other stores) sell bagged kale pieces. All you need to do is sort out any big stems and you are ready to go!

As a side note, I made a big batch of these to have at a game night we were hosting at our house. I was using a bagged kale which was mostly curly kale. The curly leaf bits end up thinner than the flat leaf kale. One guest described them as "ephemeral". They were sooo thin and fragile that we had a bit of a problem with tiny kale bits dropping around the table (and unfortunately getting stuck in guests' teeth!). They were enjoyed nevertheless, although we did have to break out the box of toothpicks at one point. If you are bringing this dish to share, stick with flat leaf varieties (and if you are eating at home, check your teeth before you go out!)

Recipe: Kale Chips

1 bunch (or bag) of kale
1-2 Tbs olive oil
salt to taste

1) Wash and spin or pat dry your leaves.
2) Remove woody stems and cut or tear leaves into chip (1" x 2" ish) pieces
3) Pour 1 Tbs of olive oil into a gallon size baggie (recycled produce bag okay, too)
4) Add in kale pieces. Twist top of bag to trap air inside with leaves. Shake, shake, shake until all leaves are coated. If you have a lot of leaves and the oil isn't coating them all, add the extra olive oil and repeat.
5) Pour out leaves onto baking sheet covered with parchment paper or silpat. Try not to overload the tray. The leaves will need some air space to dry evenly.
6) Lightly sprinkle with salt (I found a little goes a long ways here)
7) Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Stir leaves so outside leaves get to middle & vice versa. Try to separate clumps and space out pieces for even drying.
8) Bake for a further 10 minutes. Check for doneness. Dry leaves will sit loosely on the tray and if you shake it, they will slide and make a little dry leaf-type noise. If all the leaves are dry, take out tray. If not, stir and cook for 5 more minutes. Repeat until all leaves are dry.
9) Let cool for 5 minutes. Eat!

These make a great substitute for light snacks like potato chips or popcorn. By making them yourself, you are saving a ridiculous amount of money. I saw this week at the grocery store, a small potato chip size bag of kale chips (an ounce or less) was running $5.99. That's just INSANE. A whole bag of chopped kale cost me $2.29 and made about 6 servings. So let's see that's a savings of over 90%. Nice!

If you are looking for fancy flavors, we gave garlic/parmesan a try and it was a big hit. I just added a teaspoon of crushed garlic to the oil before adding the kale and then sprinkled parmesan over the leaves before cooking instead of salt. I think next I'll try substituting sesame oil for some of the olive oil and sprinkling on sesame seeds.

For more ideas, try looking at this site: . They have suggestions for 10 different flavorings to try.

As always, I'd love to hear what you think or how this worked for you! Feel free to comment below. Click the "like" button to add us to your facebook newsfeed.