As good as new

Well hey!  I finished quilting all 161 squares and 60 triangles this weekend.  I’m not really sure why there are an odd number of squares, but I did count them at least twice.  During the quilting I’d noticed that some of the peach fabric squares in one of the nine patches were very threadbare and holey.  I put a pin through it to remind me where they were.  We slept underneath the quilt that night, fortunately not getting pricked.

I replaced them with some teeny ones using a buttonhole stitch around each one.  I love the cute little animals on these 1930’s reproduction fabrics!

Then I washed it, ironed the prairie points flat and have put it back on our bed.  The quilt on the wall is our wedding quilt Cleaved.

This has been such a fun and satisfying project that I am thinking about making another quilt.  🙂

Return to quilting

No one is more surprised than I at how much satisfaction and pleasure I’ve gotten from working on Nellie’s Nine Patch.   I ‘found’ myself as an artist when I discovered quilting in 1996.  I focused on art quilting, textile and fibre art for about the next 15 years.  I made my last quilt in 2012 for my bed ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams’.  Then, I started going to a drawing class in 2013 and got into other media for a while.

Enter the Forest of Dreams, bed quilt, 2012.

Still, most people know me as an art quilter and often ask me how my textile work is going;   for the past five years I’ve been saying, ‘I used to make quilts and fibre art, but recently I’ve been painting and drawing and doing other stuff’.

Anyhow, I digress.  I’ve finished all of my repairs on Nellie’s Nine Patch and have decided to quilt the 161 squares which I had left blank back in 2002.

I quilted about a mile of straight lines criss-crossing through each one using my walking foot.  I do not have a long arm quilting machine.  I do have very strong hands and biceps though!

Then I lowered the feed dogs, put my free motion foot on my Bernina and am adding a four petal flower to each square.  I like figuring out the meandering pathway through a set of about 20 squares and ending up right where I began.

I’m also replacing the grade school photo of my mom which was so faded on the back side. I quilted the square (and over the old photo) first, then replaced the photo, so it would not have quilting lines going over her beautiful face.

Back of the quilted square, prior to replacing the photograph.

At first, I was going to use a photo printed onto sheer fabric.  I felt there was something romantic about the 15 year old faded photo being overlaid with a new one, but I had problems lining up the eyes exactly.  First one, then the other was too low.  I ironed on, then tore off the first two.  By the time I got to my third sheer attempt, there was so much fabric glue showing through that she appeared to have a skin disease.

In the end, I decided to print the photo onto Pima cotton.  I’ve also replaced the poem in a font that looks like old fashioned cursive writing.  My mom had great penmanship, which she probably learned as a little girl in the 1930’s.

Once I had zigzagged around the edges of the photograph and the poem with invisible thread to secure it, I re-stitched in the ditch around the nine patch squares from the front, leaving the photograph framed, secure and unstitched through.

The Durabright ink in my Epson Stylus printer is archival quality and is supposed to last for 100  years.  So the childhood image of my mom will be around for quite a long time.  Longer than it takes memories to fade anyhow.

Time for a few small repairs

One of the first quilts I made is a double bed quilt.  I started it in 1998 when 1930s reproduction fabrics were all the rage.  I chose a pattern called Nine Patch which was popular in the Thirties.  I pieced the quilt top in California, quilted it in Scotland in about 2000 and finished it with a prairie point border in 2002 with more fabric I bought on a trip to North Carolina in that year.

A few months ago we noticed that the fabric at the top is beginning to fray and shred after 15 years of use.

I got my ‘precision’ hat on, measured up and made a cutting list.

It has been a very long time since I’ve done any quilting, like four or five years of a long time.  I’ve really been enjoying myself!  I’ve taken over the dining tables in our salon and have been ‘coming and going’ to the work over the past few weeks.

When I culled my stash a few years ago, I’d got rid of most of my print fabrics.  D’oh!  So I had to order a pack of 50 different 5″ squares from the States, which pretty much matched my original fabrics.  I turned most of them from back to front, so they would tone in better with my gently faded quilt top.

When I made the quilt, I ‘stitched in the ditch’ around all of the seams, but didn’t quilt inside of the white squares and triangles.  Now that my repairs are made, I’m thinking of quilting those.

My quilt is called ‘Nellie’s Nine Patch’ named for my mom Nell who was a girl in the 1930’s.  On the back of the quilt is her school picture, probably from the 5th grade when she was about 10 years old.  I printed the photo onto fabric back in the very early days of printing onto fabric.  I used Bubble Jet Set to prepare the fabric, then ironed it onto freezer paper to stabilize it.  In 2001, I didn’t have a computer at home, so I used the one at the little library in Haddington, Scotland and the nice ladies who worked there very kindly let me use their printer for this first experiment.   You can see how much the photo has faded over the years.

Just below her photograph is a very faded poem that she and I found on a sundial in 1976, when we were on a trip Back East together just four years before she died from cancer.

Time flies, suns rise
Flowers bloom and die.
Let time go by and shadows fall
Love is forever, over all.

I’m planning to print her photo onto sheer fabric and stitch it over the faded one.  I’ll also revive the poem.

There is something very poignant about the fading of the photograph and the words.  It brings to my mind the fading of memories and that remembering keeps people, things, and places alive.  One root of ‘memory’ is the Serbo-Croatian word mariti “to care for”.  Perhaps to remember a person is to care for them.

Rock & Roll Patisserie

I volunteered to make some baked goods for the Moreton Music Day Coffee Morning.  I was going to make a scrumptious cake, but it just so happened that I was on a patisserie course on Wednesday,  so I took some French pastry instead.  Much of the fun was deciding what appropriate names to give my offerings.

I’m a very confident baker and had signed up for a 5 week course at a local college so I can expand my skills and learn a few new tips.  It was a less expensive option than the cookery schools in the area.  Unfortunately, the classes were somewhat shambolic with incomplete ingredient lists, a dearth of basic cooking equipment, vague tuition and some other issues I will not bore you with.

We made palmiers from puff pastry.  The recipe sheet called for Ready Roll, which I finally managed to locate.  It turned out that block pastry was better and luckily, the instructor had some extra to spare.  I wasn’t clear on how much sugar to sprinkle on to the pastry as it was being rolled and folded, so they came out quite dry and not very sweet.

After double dipping them in melted dark chocolate, I made some apricot glaze and brushed that on the other side.  This improved them immensely!


I normally find baking a very relaxing and creative activity.  At home, when I get my recipes, ingredients and utensils out I feel that I am embarking on a pleasurable journey that invariably leads to a delicious and satisfying conclusion.  When I was a kid and a teenager, I was the baker for my family and neighbors.  It was an important part of my life that gave me pride and positive feedback.

I feel that patisserie making, as with most baking, is a practice that requires precision and a certain level of control.  I was quite stressed out over the lack of organization of the course and it was with some disappointment that I have dropped out of the course after the first two  sessions.   I’ll continue to bake at home and will look out for a short course at a cookery school to expand my repertoire.

Puffy Puffy Wow

We did our Annual Big Giant Kitchen Spring Clean over the past couple of weekends. Took absolutely EVERYTHING off of all of our shelves, degrimed, discarded the superfluous and put it all back. 

We realized our cast iron frying pan needs a re-seasoning, so I made an oven puff pancake for breakfast on Sunday morning.

Oven Puff Pancake

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Set the oven to 450°F/220°C and put a large skillet or Dutch oven into heat.
In a glass pitcher, beat the eggs, flour, milk, and salt together.  It’s important to  mix all the ingredients together at once; otherwise your pancake won’t puff.  The more air you beat into the batter, the higher it will rise in the oven.

When the oven is hot, toss the butter into the skillet and let it melt.  Pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the pancake is puffed and golden.  Cut in half and serve immediately with maple syrup, coffee and the morning paper.