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1  QUILTING / Quilting: Completed Projects / The Rainbow Sloth - LOTSA pics! on: May 10, 2017 03:45:20 PM
Here's a bit o' background on the mini art quilt I made for dfabbric in MAQ Swap 8.  Smiley



"Bright rainbow colours" and "sloths" were two things that jumped out when I read dfabbric's list of themes.  Who doesn't love a sloth?  Smiley  I looked up a bunch of sloth pictures on Google, found a pose I liked and did a sketch.  I've wanted to try doing a ticker-tape quilt since I saw sheepBlue's versions, so I filled in my sloth doodle with random ticker-tape shapes and then coloured them in like a rainbow:



dfabbric also mentioned an interest in a non-standard quilt shape, so I decided to make the quilt circular.  Initially I was hoping to dye some fabric for the background, but that didn't work out so I used some dark blue fabric with glow-in-the-dark stars on it because I've been itching to use it since I got it!  I scanned my doodle into Inkscape, tidied it up a bit and printed out a template onto card, then used it to cut out the basic sloth shape in Kona Graphite and to mark out the future placement of the branch:



Then I got completely distracted by leaves, lol!  I free-hand drew a bunch of leaf shapes on more card, then used the templates to cut out green leaf shapes and also brightly coloured backing fabrics for reverse applique:




After I'd created the reverse applique leaf markings, I used a couple of layers of interfacing to create a "faux-punto" effect under the coloured areas and the leaf mid-vein, and held it in place by couching green rayon embroidery floss on the top of the leaves:





I clipped the excess interfacing away from the coloured markings, then backed all the leaves with a different green fabric, turned them through, topstitched all the way around to close the gap, and did FMQ veins on each leaf:




Then I went back to the main body of the quilt and started by couching a variegated brown/gold rayon floss as the outline of the branch, then I filled the space with ticker-tape bits in "tree" colours:


(The leaves weren't actually attached until *much* later - I was playing with possible layouts!)

The branch got an extra layer of batting for more faux-punto, too.  Once it was all sewn down and zuzhed up a bit with some viney decorative stitches and more couched floss, I positioned slothy and secured him down with couched glow-in-the-dark embroidery floss and glow-in-the-dark polyester thread, and with his own layer of faux-punto wadding.  That done, I started filling in the sloth shape with a rainbow of scraps:




All the ticker-tape bits were first sewn down by stitching around each shape, then I added texture (and even more security!) by doing FMQ over the surface - a sort of wood-grain effect on the branch and a more "furry" texture on the sloth, matching the thread colour to each area I was quilting:





The face was a little tricky - I really wanted to show the distinctive sloth face markings but I didn't want it to look like a skull!  In the end I relied on more quilting to make it look "fuzzier".  For this, I used more of the glowy polyester thread, which proved to be really nice to quilt with, and it looks really cool in the dark!





Sloth's eyes, nose and claws were done with a slightly metallic-looking brown pleather:



The background was stipple-quilted very minimally with black rayon - mostly I tried to avoid crossing over any of the larger stars.  Then I decided there needed to be even MORE GLOW and covered the leaves with French knots in the glowy embroidery floss.  After some thought, I attached the leaves by sewing part-way up either side of the mid-vein, just enough to hold the leaf on but still allow it to show its shape and be folded back to see details underneath.



The binding is a pretty navy-blue bias binding I picked up 'specially and attached with a decorative leafy vine stitch pre-programmed in my sewing machine:



The hanging sleeve gave me a bit to think about - no corners! No corner pockets! So I made a sort of tube out of more starry fabric that followed the outer edge of the quilt and inserted a couple of very long buttonholes to allow the insertion of a hanging pole:



One of my favourite bits is actually the back - I made sure to match the colours of the top and bottom threads, so... Ghost Sloth is made of rainbows and stars!  Cheesy



This was tons of fun to make and I learned loads.  Thanks for looking!  Smiley
2  COOKING / Dessert / Croissant "bread" pudding w/ orange and cardamom on: May 07, 2017 02:55:15 PM


This is a yummy thing to make if you've got some croissants that have got a lil tired (or you found them in the Whoops! section at the supermarket!)  The recipe as written doesn't come out too sweet, so it's lighter and more refreshing than might be expected.  It's also fairly flexible because the custard can be made ahead of time if necessary.

Ingredients
4 normal croissants
300 mL double cream, plus enough milk to make up to 1-1/4 pints
5 large eggs
10-12 cardamom pods, slightly crushed (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one orange
1-1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
Orange marmalade (home-made for preference, tends to be less sweet and more orange-y)
Brown sugar (for dusting)
Handful of flaked almonds
Butter for greasing

Method:
First, make a custard.  Start by gently heating the milk and cream with the cardamom pods in a heavy saucepan.  Keep an eye on it and stir regularly - no one likes burned milk all over the stove!  Meanwhile, separate the eggs (save the whites for another dish) and beat the yolks in a large bowl with the caster sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest until fluffy, pale and thickened.  When the milk and cream just reaches simmering point, remove from the heat, allow to cool for a couple of minutes and then pour into the egg yolk mixture with plenty of stirring to combine.  Transfer the custard mixture back to the pan and heat gently over a low heat to thicken - it will need frequent stirring to stop it catching on the bottom or curdling.  Once the custard has thickened, strain into a jug and set aside until needed (refrigerate if necessary).

About 1-2 hours before you want to bake it, grease a deep oven dish well and slice the croissants into angled rounds about 1/2" thick.  Spread half the rounds in the bottom of the dish and use a teaspoon to dollop blobs of marmalade over the croissants.  Be as generous as you like!  Add the rest of the rounds in a covering layer, then pour over the prepared custard and allow to soak for at least an hour or two before baking.

To bake, preheat the oven to 180oC.  Sprinkle the top of the pudding with the brown sugar and flaked almonds and bake on the lowest rung of the oven for 30 mins (check after 20 mins) until nicely browned and bubbling.

You could serve it with cream, ice cream, yoghurt, etc. if you wanted, but it tastes good all by itself too.  Smiley
3  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Leftover Duck Ramen on: April 19, 2017 02:26:09 PM
I made this last night and it worked rather well. Apologies in advance for the no pics - it did briefly cross my mind but I was too busy eating it!  Picture, if you will, a large bowl piled with egg noodles, crisped duck, boiled egg and chopped coriander, all covered with a steaming broth.  That's what it looked like.

Quantities are slightly hand-wavy because I kinda made this up as I went, with whatever was in the fridge/cupboard.  But it seems like a pretty forgiving recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2)
Leftover roast duck carcass
Stock veg (carrot, celery, onion, etc.)

Marinade
2-3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
~1 tsp ground coriander
Ground white pepper (to taste)
Chilli (to taste, I used ~1/2 tsp of lazy chillis out of a jar)

Soup
~1 to 1-1/2 pt duck stock*, aka "enough for two hungry-ish people" (see below)
5-6 dried shii-take mushrooms, soaked in boiling water (save the soaking liquid to add to the soup) and sliced
1 baby leek or 2 spring onions, finely sliced (I used a leek and did long thin strips)
1" piece of ginger, peeled and finely sliced into strips
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
5-6 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
Two whole star anise
Salt & pepper to taste
Egg noodles, enough for two people (or use your favourite noodles)

Topping
1 egg, medium boiled (yolk still slightly runny in the centre)
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

Directions
Remove all the remaining duck meat from the carcass (we ended up with probably about half a lb, four of us had already had a good meal off it on Easter Sunday). Use the carcass plus stock veg to make a duck stock.* Slice the duck meat into smallish slivers, then mix with the marinade ingredients, cover and leave to sit in the fridge for at least half an hour (adjust the quantity of marinade ingredients if necessary - the meat should be nicely coated but shouldn't be swimming in liquid). When ready to make the ramen, spread the marinated duck evenly on a baking tray and crisp in an oven at 180oC for a total of 20 mins (check and turn after 10 mins).

While the duck is marinating, prepare the soup ingredients. When ready to assemble the ramen, place all the soup items (except for the noodles) in a pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for ~15 mins while the duck is crisping in the oven. Taste the soup during cooking and adjust seasoning as preferred. During the last ~5 mins, cook the noodles as directed by the packet.

To serve, peel the boiled egg and cut into quarters. Share the noodles between two warmed bowls, top with the crispy shredded duck, egg and fresh coriander, then pour the prepared soup over the top (remove the star anise first!) and drizzle with more sesame oil if you're like me and have a slight addiction to the stuff. Enjoy!


*Note: For two people, I didn't need all the stock made from our duck carcass. The remaining stock will probably become ramen v.2.0 or some other kind of soup in the near future.  Smiley
4  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Sticky Rice Lotus Leaf Wraps on: April 08, 2017 05:31:22 AM
First time I've posted a foody thing, but I'm ridiculously proud of making these!  Smiley







I (broadly) followed the recipe here and was very happy with the results.  I did make the effort to source some of the more authentic ingredients (had to order them online because there just aren't ANY Asian supermarkets 'round here), used five chicken thighs (mostly because there were five in the pack and I didn't want to leave one lonely!), left out the five-spice because it turned out we didn't have any and couldn't find any at the time, replaced ~half the scallions w/ baby leeks and a stick of celery (because otherwise we didn't have enough!), and used a mixture of chestnut, oyster, shii-take, and king trumpet mushrooms ('bout half chestnut mushies, other half was a mixed pack because they were literally the only "exotic" mushrooms my local supermarket had!  Days like that, I really miss the amazing mushroom stand at the supermarket in Ebina when I lived in Japan...).  Other than some Very British Grumbling about US cup measurements (sorry, I really can't get my head around it - certainly not for something like mushrooms!), it was super easy to make.  You do need to plan a bit in advance because they do take time to make, but most of that is soaking/marinading/steaming time - the actual amount of "doing stuff" is pretty minimal.

My mum was extremely impressed with them (especially with the flavour from the lotus leaves).  She helped out with the wrapping part and it gave her a bit of a lift after some really bad news she had a couple of days ago.  I'd been meaning to do these for a while anyway and I'm very glad that completely by chance I managed to get everything together to make them last night.  We still have half of them left so I'm going to put them in the freezer for another day - soon, I think!  Smiley
5  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / A Piggy for my Piggy on: February 26, 2017 04:21:47 PM
I keep pet guinea pigs, but sadly one of my girls died last month after an illness.  My remaining fluff-butt is mostly doing ok but does look a bit forlorn, bless her - piggies are social, herd animals and really need to be kept in groups of two or more.  Someone suggested giving her a teddy to snuggle with until I can find a new real friend for her, so I decided to make her a new friend in the form of a cuddly toy guinea pig!  It.... sort of worked?



The pattern was one I found online and tidied up a lil in Inkscape.  It made me realise how bad I am at handling fur fabric when I made this, and I think it would also have helped if I'd made the larger version I printed out first.  I did have fun cutting out lil piggy ears and feet from felt scraps, though!





I stuffed it with some of the endless wadding scraps I have and used a couple of small (purple!) buttons for the eyes, which would have been vastly easier to attach earlier in the process, not as literally the last thing I did.

Despite my efforts, I'm not sure Mommet is convinced:



Oh well.  Perhaps she'll warm to it when she realises it's not going to be competition for her precious lettuce leaves!
6  QUILTING / Quilting: Completed Projects / Tragedy and Comedy Mini Quilt on: February 23, 2017 09:43:09 AM
It arrived.  IT ARRIVED!  FINALLY!  *flails*  I was really starting to worry about this one, but now I know it's landed at the proper destination, I can share it here.  Smiley



Thimbles71's swap info mentioned a fondness for red, black, white, grey and silver and one of her interests was the theatre.  I always liked the dual nature of the tragedy and comedy masks, so I looked at loads of pictures on google and saw one that had red and black diamonds on the masks that I wanted to riff on, so I doodled up a design in Inkscape and then converted it into a foundation-pieced pattern.



That was probably the trickiest bit, actually.  I've done a couple of foundation-pieced designs before, but nothing this big or complex, but after chasing polygons in circles for a bit I got something workable and started piecing.





For putting pieced sections together, I learned of the joys of using Wonder Clips instead of pins - they hold everything perfectly and without buckling up the pieces!  Not sure this would have had such a happy ending without them.



Once both sides were assembled, I backed it with a silvery-grey star-bursty sort of fabric and did the binding and corner pockets with the dark-grey variant of one of the background prints:



The quilting ended up being fairly simple - stitch in the ditch around the mask and diamonds, then sharp stippling on the coloured areas and regular stippling on the background:



This is one of those projects that I still can't quite believe actually worked!  XD
7  QUILTING / Quilting: Completed Projects / "Bunch of Flowers" art quilt wall-hanging on: January 05, 2017 05:36:33 AM
I'm starting to think that my biggest crafting inspiration is blind panic.  Mum's birthday is today, and having mooched around the local shops recently, I knew I hadn't seen anything I wanted to buy her, and I knew she was a bit envious of the cushion cover I finished recently and gave to a friend, so this happened:



She loves flowers and plants, so I decided to make some that would last a bit longer!  Wink  The best bit?  The whole thing is almost entirely from stash.  I did pick up a couple of new specialty DMC skeins in case they were needed, but only ended up using one (and realised that I already had another, d'oh).  The 3D petals and the butterfly were made using soluble stabilser (the filmy kind, solvy), which I'd bought a little while ago but not had an excuse to use yet.  It was a bit of a learning curve, and I suspect that the kind I bought wasn't really designed for how I used it, but it worked anyway.





I used scraps of ribbon and short lengths of specialty embroidery thread (rayon or metallic) in all my soluble bits to give them more body and character - I really like the subtle sparkly effect and they seem sturdier as a result.

The blue background and the appliqued petals were all made the same way - by diving head-first into my scrap bin, hauling out suitable colours and then sewing them together randomly.  Then I used bondaweb to cut the petals out and used my machine's couching foot to couch matching embroidery thread around the flowers and over the stems, which highlighted them nicely, started the quilting and secured the petals in place:





I dithered over whether to add more quilting after I'd attached the applique, but I did in the end and I'm glad, I think it gives everything more texture and it looks more finished.  Although thanks to the piecing on the front, it's easier to see the quilting from the back!



Once the quilting and binding was done, I hand-sewed the prepared 3D petals and trumpets on (oh gods, the trumpets!  They were the worst bit easily!), made a little body for the butterfly from a couple of glass beads and a headpin, then attached that as well.  There's probably more elegant ways I could have done it, but I was running out of brain at 3am this morning!  :p



The butterfly's wings were made as four parts, by preparing an area of solvy-stablised blue-green organza with different metallic threads (blue, green, silver and white iridescent on one side, variegated gold in the bobbin), then I used a printout from the interwebs as templates to couch around the wing shapes and variegated blue cotton quilting thread to create veins on the wings once I'd got rid of all the paper.  The sequins happened when I decided they needed a little more ooomph.

For my next trick, I will be trying to find my sewing table under this lot:



(It's actually worse than that now, I hadn't started the butterfly when I took that photo!)
8  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Decorated makeup pot on: December 24, 2016 01:50:44 PM
My sister asked for a pot to keep mascara etc. in for Christmas.  I wasn't really sure where I'd find such a thing, but then I found a plain wooden "desk tidy" in The Works (this one) for a whole 1 and decided to decorate it myself.




The inside of the box I painted with black acrylic paint and varnish, and I used the box to cut out card templates of the sides, then covered them with scraps of wadding and some pretty fabric that I happened to pick up in a scrap pack recently that is just the kind of thing my sister likes:



(I never used a glue-dot dispenser before now - HOW good are those things?  Love it!  Made life so much easier!)

Then I dug out ALL my seed beads, ribbon, assorted trim, sequins and whatnot and spent a happy afternoon jazzing it up even more.  Smiley  Originally, I tried to encrust the top edges with tiny sequins glued on, but then I discovered that even hot glue doesn't stick to varnished surfaces (d'oh!), so I ended up sewing all around with gold braid, and actually I like the effect much better.  I also got a nice photo of my niece to put in one of the heart shapes.  Hope my sister likes it!  (Kind of want to make myself one, now.)
9  QUILTING / Quilting: Completed Projects / Silk applique cushion on: December 24, 2016 04:33:02 AM
This is a little proof-of-concept project that I did:



The band is hand-pieced from bits of silk ties (I buy them in charity shops, hand-wash them and unpick them - it's surprisingly satisfying!).  It's EPP hexagons, but with a bit of a twist - literally.



The hexagons are not regular, instead I used a small program a friend wrote to generate wonky hexagons (for something else entirely!), so I could see what they'd look like as patchwork.  I backed all the silk with my lightest interfacing to stop it stretching and misbehaving, but I wonder if something like mistyfuse might be better next time (hadn't heard of it until recently).



To help with putting them together, I numbered all my card templates and also had a paper copy of the layout so I didn't get lost - I had to unpick a couple of times but mostly it went very smoothly.  Once the hexie band was finished, I appliqued it onto a square of Essex yarn-dyed linen and hand-quilted it with wavy lines in blue perle silk on the hexagons and straight lines in grey perle cotton on the linen.  The back is also linen, with a zip closure.
10  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Winter Holidays / Fabric Christmas Ornament on: December 05, 2016 01:09:43 PM
I saw a paper version of this ornament a while ago, but only just got around to trying to make a fabric version.



It took me a few goes to arrange my circles of fabric so that they nestled nicely together once I started sewing on the beads.  It's not completely perfect, but I was pleased that I got it to work in the end - and it was a really good excuse to test out the couching foot for my sewing machine.  Smiley  I'm going to try a simpler approach for the next one, though.
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