"Christmas"

Stocking Stuffers for Quilters

10 Stocking Stuffers for Quilters

Tis the season! I've put together a list of some of my favourite small quilting items. Print off the list for the other shoppers in your family or for yourself. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not these are great, inexpensive treats for making quilting better, more fun, and easier.

  • Kwik Klip - A very handy tool when pin basting quilts. Yes, you could use an old teaspoon, but this is easier.
  • Sewing Machine Oil - It isn't something we often buy for ourselves but it is an integral part of machine maintenance. Make sure to buy the right one for your machine.
  • Seam roller - Instead of finger pressing or getting up that much more, buy a seam roller. Violet Craft is now selling them (a branded version of the one I've always used.) Perfect for improv piecing as well as both paper piecing (foundation and English). I couldn't sew without mine.
  • Hera marker - Personally, I am not a fan of most marking pencils when quilting. A Hera Marker leaves a crease rather than a mark. With good lighting it is easy to follow.
  • Chalk Pencil - All that being said about marking, this recent discovery made me very happy. I've used chalk to mark before but I really like this handy Bohin chalk pencil. A fine line. Downside, doesn't work on white.
  • Fabric Glue - Good old Elmer's Glue works great for glue basting and more, but there are good fabric glues out there that are even better. I like Liquid Stitch and Unique Stitch. While you are at it, pick up some of these glue tips. They are perfect!
  • Rotary Cutter Blades - A quilter can never have too many! Even though we all wait too long to change the blade. Make sure to pick up the right size and brand for the rotary cutter in the sewing room.
  • Small Olfa Scissors - While you can often get pretty little scissors at the check out counter in nearly any sewing store, spend a few more bucks to get these Olfa Precision Scissors. They cut fabric well but also work as snips. Perfect for handwork. And bonus, they seem to pass through TSA screening without any problem because the blade is less than 3'' (but not in Australia, ask me how I know).
  • Needle Threader - Anyone who does handwork knows what a pain it can be to thread and keep needles threading. They also know how quickly we go through needle threaders because the main mechanism is thing wire. You can never have too many around. This Clover one is my favourite
  • Thread Conditioner - I am a recent convert to this, after finishing two major handwork projects. Boy or boy, does it make life easier! Thread Heaven is the one I am using currently.
  • Enamel Pins - The pins are all the rage now, no matter the hobby or inclination. Check out the Sewist (Abby Glassenberg), No Regrets (Colette Patterns) and this Sewing Machine (City of Industry.
  • Gift certificate to an online class - this really takes up no room in the stocking! You can gift classes on Craftsy and buy them Creative Live. Until the 16th classes on Creative Live are 50% off. Then 40% until the 19th, and so on until Christmas. 

Shockingly, fabric isn't on this list. I know! But unless you know the recipient's preferences well it is best to skip buying them fabric. They may not like charm packs or that particular fabric designer. When in doubt, pick a gift certificate to their favourite local shop. In fact, try to pick up as much as possible in your local quilt shop so they can have a merry holiday season too.

Please note that I am not affiliated with any of the brands or products listed above, with the exception of the Crafty and Creative Live classes. Those are affiliate links. 

Merry Christmas

It seems rather obvious that most of us are gathering with family over the next few days. Whether family means the neighbours next door or the entire familia at your parent's house, there are likely to be a few familiar treat on the table.

For me that means a big Ukrainian feast, followed by Christmas Tree bun, a fantastic gourmet feast, and more hot cocoa than anyone possibly needs. Don't forget about the rogalki, the shortbread, the rum balls, and definitely the booze. (Have you ever noticed how Christmas is much more enjoyable now that you can drink in front of your parents?)

As a parent myself now I was fighting crowds and crossing fingers. There I was in Canadian Tire, not quite begging Santa to come through for me. The Monster asked for a water gun in her letter to Santa. A water gun, in December. While I waited for a very, very kind elf to check the basement of Canadian Tire for a random water gun I browsed the candy aisle. That's when I came across the Misty Mints.

These were a favourite holiday treat in my family. Only for Christmas. We hoarded our favourite colours, even though they all taste the same. They aren't even real chocolate, but are so tasty. And full of memories.

When the elf returned, miraculously, with a couple of soakers, I grabbed a few boxes of Misty Mints to share with my family. Santa will still be the popular guy with my four year old. And maybe my family peace can be negotiated with some pseudo chocolate. Merry Christmas.

What will you be sharing this week?

I'm taking some time off for the holidays. See you in the New Year!

Gingerbread Cake

This is the cake that very nearly saved my life. Not changed my life, saved my life.

I have a very bad habit of waking in the middle of the night and snacking. I totally blame the tiny bladder I was blessed with, it wakes me and I'm left with nothing to do but snack before I try and get back to sleep. One April morning I awoke and tried to talk myself out of the extra ten steps to the kitchen for a piece of leftover gingerbread cake. I have no will power when fully awake, let alone at 3 am.

There I found myself, a piece of cake in hand and staring out the window when I noticed an orange glow. It took a few seconds to register that the glow wasn't actually supposed to be there. And a few seconds longer to realize that the glow meant fire.

Hubby's car was parked behind our garage on a parking pad. The car was the 1975 Triumph TR6 he bought a decade before. For years it had been in need to repair. In our garage sat the engine and an extra transmission. We'd moved 6 months earlier and he borrowed a flat bed to transport it all 3 hours down the highway. He knew exactly what he was going to do to the fix that car.

Having it lit on fire wasn't part of the plan.

In that eventual moment when I realized the car was on fire I screamed for him. He came running out, yelling at me to pick up the phone and call 911, then raced outside to grab the fire extinguisher from our daily driver in the garage. The garage two feet away from the burning car. I'm freaking out while the 911 operator is quite calmly and kindly reminding me that cars blow up and perhaps we should not be standing in front of the windows, let alone trying to put it out ourselves. That's when Hubby reminds me that there is no engine in the car and the gas tank would be empty. I'm obviously not very smart when faced with fire.

Fire trucks come and with very little ceremony the flames are doused in just minutes. The facts all point to someone having thrown accelerant on the hood of the car and tossing a match. By the time I'd discovered the fire there wasn't much left.

The garage was also hot and had to be hosed down on one side, siding eventually replaced. If the garage had gone up we would have lost our other car, the one with a full tank of gas, and who knows what else. As sad as Hubby was at losing his car, we were thankful that that was all we lost.

We came in the house as the sun was coming up and cracked a beer, a bit charred ourselves. When I went to put the bottles away I noticed the cake. One piece of cake fallen on the counter, with a single bite taken.

Peterson Gingerbread Cake
This is the recipe of my sister-in-law's mother. Their family likes it with Bird's Custard Sauce or even cream cheese icing. I'm partial to it with some maple butter. It is moist and heady with gingerbread.

1/2 cup shortening (I use butter)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup hot (not boiling) water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8'' by 8'' baking pan.
2. Cream shortening/butter. Gradually add the sugar, then the egg. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the molasses.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Add to the batter, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with 1/4 cup water. Beat until smooth after each addition. Pour into pan.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
1 cup molasses

Caught in the Act

Have you ever considered boycotting the entire notion of Christmas baking? Frankly, I'm sure most of us have at one time or another. We're so busy during December and stopping to bake a couple of dozen cookies for a swap, a party, or simply to steal from the freezer for the rest of the month is the last thing we want to do.

Then we see the covers of the magazines and every single one is a Christmas tree arrangement of glittery cookies tempting us back into the grocery store for butter and sugar. Our kids/partners beg for a batch of shortbread or some esoteric treat their mom used to make. Or the guilt hits.

Every year I swear I'm not going to do it. Maybe a batch of Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread or Peppermint Bark. But THAT'S IT.

And every year I bake 3 or 4 more kinds of cookies. Then I pretty much eat them all myself. What a Ninny.

So this year I vowed I wouldn't do it. I swore to my husband and my jiggly tummy that I wouldn't even buy the butter.

Then The Monster started prepping for the concert at school. It was all about The Gingerbread Man. In fact, a reenactment of the story. She's been walking around reciting the damn thing non stop. Then she asked to bake. I suggested gingerbread men. This brought on tears, full can't catch your breath sobs out of fear that our gingerbread men would run away after we baked them. We settled on gingerbread penguins and moose. Thank goodness there are no stories about runaway moose. At least none with catchy songs attached.

I pulled out the icing sugar, sprinkles, and ridiculously fake food colourings. It was craft time/kitchen time/treat time as far as the girls were concerned. It was a messy way to kill an hour. That's how I approached it at first. Still a Ninny.

The messier it got, however, the happier we all were. Grandma was visiting and happily iced the requested purple and pink penguins. We eventually laughed at the number of sprinkles underfoot, joking that one of us was going to wipe out like it was a pile of ball bearings and we were in a cartoon. My counters are stained and my kids ate more icing than cookies. There wasn't a single tantrum, by them or me.

No longer is Christmas baking about a pile of cookies in the freezer for the guests that might pop by. It isn't even about treats to share with the neighbours over tea. It is about process, the act of making. Baking and decorating cookies with the girls is like Jackson Pollack at a canvas.

Who cares that the cookies will likely not be eaten for lack of enough icing or the wrong sprinkles? They'll make me a little more Santa like, in spirit and with my jiggle.

For the record. We used this recipe from Julie for the cookies. The only change I made is that we cooked them for 10-11 minutes so they would be a bit softer.