Thursday, October 29, 2015

Elderberry Cordial

I had a few of those elderberries left over and wanted to try my hand at making a brandy or liqueur with them, purely for medicinal purposes you understand. This will make a nice after dinner drink to sip with dessert or to pour over vanilla ice cream. 
All you really need is a large jar, some lemon peel, inexpensive vodka and lots of time.
The measurements here are pretty imprecise. I used about 4 cups of cleaned elderberries, the peel of 1 lemon and an entire quart of vodka. All this goes into a sterilized, covered jar and sits for a couple of months in a cool dry spot. In my case that's the floor of my kitchen pantry. After it steeps it's time to strain out all the solids and add a small or large amount of simple syrup. The more syrup you add the sweeter the cordial will be. I might not even make syrup, I  might just add sugar to taste and see what happens.
You make simple syrup by bringing equal amounts of water and sugar to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to cool before adding. 

This was an old style cough syrup or tonic when folks were making their own medicines now days we'll just enjoy the taste of a wild summer on our cold winter evening. I'll show you all the end result when it's finished brewing.
For a more detailed description of making fruit liqueurs just use our friend Google there's a wealth of info and tons of different ways to do this. Almost any fruit will work. I've made cherry and peach brandy in the past both of which are swoon worthy.

Until next time,

Monday, October 26, 2015

In A Swirl

When I left off with this project I was telling you about matching up all the intersections on the bias edges of these 14 triangles.
A lot of slow and careful sewing later and voila!
I'm so happy with the way this turned out! Very dramatic don't ya think?
I just have to brag a little bit about about those match ups. Starching, pinning and slowing down really did pay off.
Here you can see that pressing the seams open really helped the project to lay flat. That's a lot of fabric meeting in the middle.
I had left over fabric so I made a couple more projects. The triangles are smaller and so the projects end up smaller. These things are like potato chips you can't eat just one!

I ended up with three. The large table runner measures 44" x 20"; the small runner is 24" x 10"; the hexagon mat is 22" x 20".
I found the perfect matching red for the backing in my stash and Warm and Natural batting remnants in the stash too.
Lots of ditch quilting on these with linen color on top and a rust red in the bobbin. I think I'll bind them in red too. Love the way this project has come together. 
Have you ever had a project that you didn't have directions for but you just went for it anyway? How did it turn out for you?

Linking up to Design Wall Monday, I just love looking at everyone's eye candy!

Until next time,

Friday, October 23, 2015

Adventures In Jelly

I've had a jelly making adventure here on Dogwood Lane that I've been eager to tell you about. How can making jelly be an adventure you may ask? I'm here to tell you that this mundane household task can be an adventure for sure if you have to trek through the wilds to find your ingredients and then climb down a cliff to retrieve them! Now you're impressed or you should be.

OK, So I didn't do the trekking or the climbing my son did but you should still be impressed. These little gems are what he was after - Elderberries. They grow wild on the sides of the canyons around here and it can be a task to get enough to make anything with so I'm giving Zack a shout out here. touts the benefits of elderberries as an herbal cure for colds, flu and bacterial and viral infections. I don't know a thing about that but, I do know that Harry Potter is pretty impressed by the power of the Elder Wand in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The Elder Wand is made from the wood of the elderberry so let's get our magic on!
This is what I had after stemming and washing, not really a whole lot to work with. These are so tiny and don't taste like much on their own as they are very astringent. I needed to get the juice from these tiny berries. I've made jam most of my life but I've never made jelly it just seemed too fussy and time consuming to me. Zack convinced me that this would be fun and I'm up for the challenge.
An internet search yielded little in the way of recipes for elderberry jelly but jelly is jelly so here goes. Gentle heating and mashing to extract the juices. 
I did not possess jelly bags so I made my own from a fat quarter. Quilting stash to the rescue!

My adorable kitchen twine holder, isn't it cute?

Elderberry pulp. Gorgeous color!
This is my fabulous and stylish rig for hanging the jelly bags overnight. A broomstick suspended between two plastic bins. It worked even if it was on the ugly side. Don't worry the sink is impeccably clean.
The next morning two stainless steel bowls of elderberry juice ready for jelly making.
This turned out so delicious! Absolutely worth all the work. I don't know about the medicinal properties but the taste is out of this world and completely unique. Can't wait for next year's elderberry season I hope I can persuade Zack to climb down that cliff again.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cutting Those Wedges

Turning this border print which I had in my stash into a table runner is the challenge I set for myself to get my creativity back. I turned to YouTube to find the answer since I didn't have a pattern and wanted to get started like yesterday!
This is the video I found most helpful and I watched it about five times before I figured I understood what was going on here. The video says you need 1 1/4 yds of fabric and I had 2 yds so good to go! 
I also found these rulers lurking in my ruler hoard. I tell you cleaning out and rearranging my sewing space last spring has been the best thing I've done in ages. I now know what fabric I have at a glance (amazing border print) and what rulers I have (not one but two 60 degree rulers!). I don't have to buy anything to get started right away. 
Time to make those cuts. Full disclosure here - I miscut the very first cut and so wasted the first 10 or 11 inches of my fabric. Oh well, good thing I have more than the recommended yardage. One reason I always buy more than the project suggests.
Now on to the sewing. It's pretty clear that this project's success depends on accuracy in cutting and especially sewing. To help with the cutting I think starch is the answer. These are bias edges here and bias moves so starch really helps. Best Press is not the best for this you really need starch to make the fabric stable. Best Press, which I love for most of the time is more of a sizing and just not stiff enough.
Folding back the fabric to get a good view of those lines.
Lots of lines to match up and that means LOTS OF PINNING! I like flower head pins because they're easy for me to grasp with my touch of arthritis but whichever pins work for you, don't be shy pin away.

That's the longest seam and each match point is pinned especially the center point.

Because of all the intersecting seams I pressed all the seams open so the piece will lay nice and flat. This is a lot of up close piecing but I find it relaxing in an odd way. it's a really good feeling when it comes together well.
I'm satisfied with today's effort, I need a break.

Until next time,

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Roller Coaster Ride

photo credit
How do you feel about roller coasters? Personally I hate the things! Sure there's some fun involved and the views at the top can be spectacular but the nausea of the drop and whiplash just aren't worth the cheap thrill for this girl. My entire summer and now most of the fall has felt like one extended roller coaster ride and I'm ready to get off.
We have had a lot of great things happen  - fun family visits, happy times with grown children and growing grandkids, a beautiful niece's wedding.
Heartbreaking events too - dear friends with life threatening illnesses, a young mother stricken and fighting for her life and two friends left widowed mourning their partners. Life changes are happening all around with dear friends moving away as well.
All these things have found us racking up frequent flyer/road miles and plenty of time sleeping in strange beds. This hasn't left a lot of time nor much energy for pursuing anything creative and I just haven't had what it takes to write blog posts. 
All this is by way of explaining why I haven't posted here in six weeks or more. Six weeks, yikes! Well, time to get back into the groove and get creating again. I have projects to show you and stuff behind the scenes I'm eager to share.
On my design wall is a project using some gorgeous stripe fabric I just had to buy. Browsing the internet to calm your nerves can be dangerous for the credit card - just saying.
I couldn't resist the wonderful colors in this stripe it reminded me of a Russian painted nesting doll and I have a friend who I think will enjoy this too. Connie at Free Motion By The River had a project quite a while back that I pinned on Pinterest and wanted to try that was perfect for this fabric so I decided to wing it without a pattern. All I have to go on are some You Tube videos and my trusty 60 degree triangle ruler, Star Maker 6 which I have actually never used. 
Lining up the fabric and making those first cuts is a little daunting but remember it's only fabric not brain surgery - nobody is going to die here!
Whew! All laid out and ready to sew together. See that wasn't so bad. I need a nap.

For more design wall Monday projects go to Patchwork Times and see what other quilters are up to. I promise I'll show you how this and more of my projects are turning out. Be back soon.

Until next time,