Friday, July 20, 2012

Don't look at my buns!

Hi everyone:

Okay, I know what you're thinking - this doesn't sound like it has anything to do with quilting (well, maybe you're not thinking this, but something totally different, but I'm not going to go in that direction!), but it really does, just bear with me. 

A few days ago I was at a friend's house and she was making cloverleaf rolls. The buns were in muffin pans set out to rise on her stove. They looked gorgeous: smooth and round and all puffed-up. Now, although I like to bake, I don't usually make buns, but I do have a bread maker which will do most of the hard work for me, so I thought why not give it a try. I was especially encouraged when I read her blog post, which included luscious pictures of her buns (no comments, please!) and her recipe. So, although it was beastly hot out, I decided to make cloverleaf rolls.

All started out well. I put all of the ingredients in the bread maker and then went out to run some errands. When I returned the dough cycle was done and the dough was puffed up to the top of the bread maker. I took out the dough and, as per Cathy's instructions, put three small dough balls in each muffin tin compartment and put them out to rise again. Which they didn't. So, I covered them with plastic wrap, set a damp towel on top of them and put them out in the sun to rise. Which they did, but... when I took off the plastic wrap, they fell again. Rats! I put them in the oven anyway, cooked them using convection (it was hot, remember?) and they did bake up okay, but were quite dense, not the light, fluffy buns that I was hoping for. I think they'll be great for breakfast biscuits with egg, cheese and bacon (which I never eat, but just saying). 
First attempt at buns
Not light and fluffy at all
Now, never one to stop at one attempt - or a glutton for punishment, as some might say - I decided to try again. This time, I decided to use margarine, rather than olive oil, and changed the quantities of a few of the ingredients (sorry, Cathy). I made the dough in the bread maker and it came out a nice, smooth ball, just like it should. 
Second attempt at buns
Dough is looking good
Dough ball out of bread maker
I then divided the dough into smaller balls to make the cloverleaf rolls and also made a small loaf. Everything was looking good so far. I used an egg wash on the buns and bread so it would be a nice golden brown when finished. 
Buns ready to go into the oven
I decided to bake the buns on the regular baking setting, rather than convection. Hallelujah! It worked! Just changing a few ingredients and the method resulted in light, fluffy, delectable buns - and an equally wonderful bread loaf.
Light and fluffy sort-of-cloverleaf roll

Baked bread - yum!
What does this have to do with quilting? Well, just as there are various recipes and techniques to bake buns, there are also many types of quilting techniques and different ways to accomplish them. And, just as in baking, you sometimes have to try a new technique a few times before you get it right. You may find that you enjoy the technique, but not the method, and need to try a few different types before you find the one that works for you. You may love to appliqué, but prefer fusible web appliqué to the needle turn method. As in baking, you may need to experiment before finding your perfect recipe.

So, don't be discouraged if your buns or quilts don't turn out the way you'd hoped for the first time, just find another recipe or method and try again. I'm certain that you'll be rewarded with fluffy, golden buns - or quilts!

By the way, Cathy's buns were more rounded than mine - she obviously has this bun baking thing down cold, er hot :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review - Civil War Legacies and Follow the Lines Quilting Designs - Volume 5

Hi everyone:
Now that the Calgary Stampede has ended, I'm getting back into the quilting mode. Since the Stampede was celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, there were lots of vintage photos on display at the grounds. This reminded me of two books that I wanted to share with you. Well, one is actually quilting designs, but since I can't think up of a name to call it, let's just call it a book. Both are from Martingale.
Civil War Legacies by Carol Hopkins
Photo courtesy of Martingale
Civil War Legacies by Carol Hopkins includes 15 pieced patterns using reproduction fabrics. These patterns are great for using up your fabric scraps as they are make small quilts, mostly table toppers to wall hangings. The patterns use such familiar components as half square triangles and flying geese units to make traditional blocks. I like small size patterns, such as the ones in this book, as they work up quickly and are a great way to try out a new block or technique. They can easily be finished on a week-end and would make wonderful gifts.
Lincoln's Logs from Civil War Legacies
Photo courtesy of Martingale
Since the quilts in this book are small, the individual blocks are also small, so accuracy in piecing is important. With some of the blocks finishing at 3", you'll want to ensure that your 1/4" seam is dead on. I view this as a good way to practise your piecing. By the time you've finished several of these projects, you'll be a 1/4" seam ace!

Mary Smith's Dishrag from Civil War Legacies
Photo courtesy of Martingale
I'll admit that reproduction or civil war fabrics aren't my usual choices for making my quilts, but these patterns could easily be adapted for batiks or even daiwabo fabrics, which seem to work especially well with traditional block patterns. 

Michael's Victory from Civil War Legacies
Photo courtesy of Martingale
Once you've finished your civil war projects, you'll need to quilt them, of course. To help you choose the perfect quilting design, Mary M. Covey has released Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume Five - Authentic Civil War Designs and More. Doesn't it seem like these two items should be bundled and sold together? 
Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume Five by Mary M. Covey
Photo courtesy of Martingale
 As with her previous four volumes, Mary includes many quilting designs to choose from in her latest publication. This particular volume features authentic motifs from the civil war era. These designs are simple enough for beginners to use and perfectly complement traditional civil war quilt projects, such as those in Carol Hopkins' book. There are 18 designs to choose from and within these motifs are both continuous-line designs, as well as designs for borders, blocks and setting triangles. 
Old Oak Leaf pattern from Follow-the Line Quilting Designs
Volume Five by Mary M. Covey
Photo courtesy of Martingale
I like how Mary indicates the size of the quilting design, so you'll know if it will fit your quilt block or border. And if it doesn't fit, don't worry, Mary has included information on how to resize the patterns, both in width and length. She also provides helpful tips on marking the patterns, choosing batting and preparing the backing. Information on using a regular sewing machine, as well as a long-arm machine is also included.

I was pleased to see another volume of quilting designs by Mary to add to my collection. These are great motifs to use on a variety of quilts, so don't think that they will only work on civil war era patterns. I know that I'll be using these on my quilts, civil war or not!

If you're a fan of reproduction quilts, you'll definitely want to add both of these books to your collection.