Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pinwheel Quilt in Coral and Linen


Size: 60”x72”


I’ve been achy-ache-achin’ to make a red and white quilt. I wanted it to look a bit old and vintage-y so I opted to use a linen/cotton blend in natural beige instead of white. And instead of a classic red I used a Kona cotton in “coral”—a little on the orange side, a little on the red side. You’ll notice (maybe you’ll notice, red is hard to photograph) two of the pinwheels are regular orange fabric. Just threw them in there because.

I swear on a stack of cookies that I can hardly make quilts where you gotta be so dang fussy about all the measurements. I read a pattern the other day that said to cut blocks 4 and 3/8” inches. 3/8” of an inch? What the heck. I am not making anything that has to be cut so precisely. So I opted to make a pinwheel quilt with just a bunch of 7” squares. This yielded a pinwheel block 12”.  I made a total of 30 Pinwheel blocks.

I found approximately 3, 452 tutorials out there on the world wide web on making pinwheels using the half-square triangle method. Or, HSQ method. So google it if you’re interested—or look at my Pinterest board on quilting know how. I had never heard of HSQs, but then again I am a lightweight quilter. I make one quilt a year, sometimes. (Although I really want to change that and quilt more. We shall see.) Below are some images of how to make half-square triangles. I’m gonna call them HSQs from now on so I sound legit.


I was so proud of myself as I made these triangles, easy peasy.  Notice I didn’t say fast—nothing is fast in quilting. I tried to keep track of my time and figure I spent about 13 hours making the quilt top—all those triangles and then sewing them all together into rows until finally, voila, pinwheel quilt top.

Making all those triangles enables you to also make a quilt with other patterns like diamonds or zig-zags.  But I stuck with pinwheels.


Once the top was pieced I layered it with the backing on the bottom, I use T-Pins to pull the bottom fabric nice and tight and pin into my carpet, as far as it will go through the carpet and pad.  Then the Warm & Natural 100% batting, then the pinwheels on top.  And then I used curved safety pins and pin like crazy. (I know other quilters just use temporary adhesive glue spray like 505, skipping the safety pins, and I’d like to try that next time. Leave me thoughts on this method in the comments.)


“Keep on pinning, keep on pinning.”


Now comes the real work—hooping the quilt in the Jumbo hoop for the quilting process. I had only ever quilted pillows in the embroidery hoop but I wanted to be able to say I did an entire quilt in the hoop. At least once. Smile (In this image I am just laying out the hoop as I haven’t removed the safety pins yet.)


I digitized a bunch of ovals (9”x15” overall) to use as my embroidery design. They are just single stitched ovals—not triple stitched, not backstitched. You can purchase the design by clicking here. I created a design like this for two reasons—first, I wanted to use every inch of my oval shaped hoop so that I wouldn’t have to hoop the quilt any more times than necessary, and second, I wanted a design that could overlap with each subsequent hooping. In other words, I didn’t want to worry about matching up my quilting motif with the design of the quilt. That would’ve killed me and caused me to set the quilt on fire, burning it in effigy.

Screen Shot

As you can see on the screen on my sewing/embroidery machine, the design only takes four minutes. However, hooping it took much longer than four minutes. I had no idea how to hoop something so large, awkward, and cumbersome.


So I went to the Facebook page for Bernina 830 users and asked the pros. One gal suggested using painting tape to hold the hoop in place while I used my two hands to slide the other half of the hoop underneath, securing it in place. Bingo! Worked like a dream. You do not use any stabilizer—the quilt ‘sandwich’ is stable enough to handle the stitches.


Once the top hoop is attached and tightened to the underneath hoop, simply lift up the painters tape so it’s out of the way of the needle. (The tape is now hooped in tightly so you can’t just pull it away.)

To embroider, I just left my tension at normal (I tried messing with it but saw zero difference) but threaded the bobbin as if I was sewing, NOT doing embroidery. Notice I’m using foot #44. When quilting all the way to the end of the quilt I noticed the regular embroidery foot ‘catching’ on the edge of the quilt top. I remember seeing a class at the local Bernina shop where they suggested foot #44 for this very project. And it was on sale for Labor Day. Giddy-up.D7K_4310

I used Isacord beige thread in the top and the bobbin.



It’s getting there…….


Thirty hoopings later and it was done! I spread the embroidery/quilting over 3 days. Probably 6 hours of work for this stage. Will I quilt a quilt in the hoop again? A small baby size for sure. This large lap size, nope. Once was enough. But I freely admit to being impatient. This design is called Quilting Ovals (click here).

Trim the excess batting and put this project away for another day.


Serge the ends to prepare for binding:


I like to serge quilt edges to hold all three layers together nice and flat. Makes the binding go on easier in my opinion.

As I serged the quilt I realized I was still dripping in sweat from my morning run. And that’s ok because if you make a quilt while still in your running shoes it means that anything you eat this winter (hot chocolate, cookies) while wrapped in your quilt will have a negative caloric value. Honest.


The ‘blank’ space where the hoopings couldn’t overlap bugged me so I free motion quilted in between those ‘blank’ spots. The Bernina stitch-regulator is awesome and I don’t use that ‘foot’ often enough. Shame on me. (Remember, I am a lightweight quilter.)


Now for the binding! I cut 8 2” strips and attached them on an angle.


My dang Simplicity bias tape maker broke, so I removed the metal part that folds the fabric strips and made bias tape the old fashioned way—my hands and the iron. (I guess I can’t call it bias tape because I didn’t cut it on the bias—just on the straight grain. Or is this the cross grain?) Click on any photo in this post to zoom in.


I attach the binding to the BACK side of the quilt first, as seen below. Then I wrap the binding around to the front and topstitch the binding down on the front. Again, a million tutorials out there on the web.


Throw in the wash to get that perfectly puckered look and also to wash out all the spray starch I used to stiffen the linen especially. My fabrics were all prewashed. I’ve heard that if your fabrics are pre-washed then only your batting shrinks, pulling in the fabrics along with the batting, creating a more puckery quilt. I have no idea if it’s true. I hate preshrinking the fabric and don’t think I’ll do it again. But I do love how crinkly it looks.


Aha! Here you can finally see the orange pinwheel.


Notice the topstitched binding? It’s not for everyone but I love it. I’m no purist. (Click on photo to zoom)



Used my Redwork alphabet in 1” size to add the date.


Back of quilt:





I see myself watching many episodes of Chopped or The Colbert Report this winter, wrapped in my pinwheel quilt, drinking calorie-free Hot Chocolate (hee hee).  I honestly can’t wait to make another quilt. So much fun.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cross Country

When I was in high school my basketball coach tried to get me to join the track team. I looked at him as if he asked me “Would you like to go to the moon?” It never dawned on me that running was a sport. For fun. Huh, pain as a sport. (I shortly quit the basketball team as well—definitely not a lover of sports.) I’ve redeemed myself a bit since then as I now run as my primary exercise but that’s only because we all eventually lose the metabolism we had as kids. If I could still eat Cheetos and chocolate milk and stay twiggy like my high school years, you bet I would not be a runner. But I digress…..this post is about my son.

Because my son is a real runner.


This is his second year running with the cross country team in high school. He can run about a 6 minute mile for his usual 5k runs. That’s unbelievable to my middle-aged legs as this morning I ran an 11-minute mile for three entire miles and I was dang proud of myself too. Not bad for a lady who eats cake, I kept saying.

So as I watch my son run I wonder, “If I just had a bit more confidence as a teenager, maybe I could have run cross country too.” Either way, I am proud of him.

He runs so fast he’s a blur!


It’s a family thing—we all come to cheer him on.


This meet was at Kiwanis Park in Provo. It was at dusk and what a beautiful summer evening it was with the mountains glowing at sunset.


Yup, my kid is passing you boys up!



The next few pictures are at a meet up in Salt Lake City at Murray Park.


Just about 2,000 high school runners


A quick video of the massive crowd running. I can pick my son out in this video, but then again, I’m his mom. And super proud.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork

Holy Moly. I hit the culinary jack pot last night with this recipe from  This has to be the best stir fry I have ever made. It tastes as good as the Sichuan stir fry at PF Chang’s restaurant. Although I think theirs is beef. Or maybe chicken. Whatever. This is tasty stuff folks.



If you don’t subscribe to any of the America’s Test Kitchen websites, nor own any of their books, at least buy the once-a-year “Best of” magazine for $10. And because it’s a magazine, I grab it when I’m running to the market and haven’t had time to make a grocery list yet.  I’ve blogged about this dang magazine before.


Yes, I keep flags all over my cookbooks because I gotta mark the “you’ve been chosen” recipes. Don’t you?


It required a trip to the Asian Market but luckily we have an amazing one on 500 West in Provo. Just a few miles from my house, yippee. These ingredients were the ones I couldn’t find at the regular grocery store:



Particularly the Asian broad bean chili paste. I had never heard of that and the Asian market has a million different bean sauces, but I think this is what the recipe meant. It was the only paste I could find. At least that’s what I bought anyway. I was super worried as I was making the stir fry because this bean paste smells bad. Just like fish sauce. Gulp. Strong stuff. But I proceeded anyway and the smell didn’t transfer to the finished dish. Phew. Just look at that greasy label? Mmmm, grease.


Oh and I couldn’t find shitake mushrooms so I had to use regular white ones. But other than that, I think I followed it exactly. I declared to the family, “We’re having this once a week for a while!” After all, I have all these interesting sauces I gotta use up now.

The only downside to making really authentic stir-fries is the million ingredients. Cooking the stir fry took maybe 10 minutes. Assembling all the ingredients takes forever in my mind. And soaking the pork in a baking soda-water mixture to soften it added another 15 minutes. In reality I was in the kitchen about 45 minutes. Listen to me whine.

We ate it over brown rice because we pretend to be healthy. And of course a side of tomatoes because the garden over floweth.


I’m just near giddy at being able to cook stir fry better than any restaurant.

APRIL 2014 UPDATE: I’ve been making this recipe now for 6 months. I never get tired of it. My favorite stir fry!

Click here for my printout of the recipe


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