Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quilts for Christmas

Some quilt projects I made for Christmas presents:

I made this pillow for my niece:

It's based on her tattoo.

The butterfly Celtic knot is reverse appliqued (by machine with a blanket stitch), the star and other elements are regularly appliqued (also by machine with a blanket stitch) using freezer paper.

For the border, I made up a simple foundation-piece-able pattern, and used black fabric with each line to create a stained-glass effect.

This is the quilt I made for Chris:

This is the biggest, most elaborate quilt I've ever made.  It was quite a logistic trick to keep such a big project secret from the guy who lives with me.

Fortunately Henri was willing to help.

I plan to post a step-by-step of these in a later posts.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sweet and Sour Mix from Fresh Juice

Here's what I do with all the zested citrus I have leftover from making Tonic, Cola, and Lemon-Lime Soda syrup.

First I juice all the citrus:
Each lime yields about 1/8 Cup.
Each lemon yields about 1/4 Cup.
Each orange yields about 1/2 Cup.

Then I mix the juices with simple syrup in a 1:2:2:3 ratio:

1 oz. orange juice
2 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. lime juice
3 oz. simple syrup

I make the simple syrup in 1:1 ratio of sugar and water; I usually dissolve 1.5 Cups sugar into 1.5 Cups water.

The resulting sweet and sour mix can be stored for several weeks, but it will separate so it needs to be shaken before served.

It makes a tasty margarita:

1 shot tequila
1/2 shot triple sec
fill with sweet and sour mix.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lemon Lime Soda Syrup Recipe

This one's very simple.

zest of 2 lemons
zest of 2 limes
2 tsp Citric Acid

Boil in 2 Cups water for 10 minutes, and strain.

Put back on stove and dissolve 1 1/2 Cups of white sugar for every 1 Cup of tea.

After cooling, mix syrup with soda water in 1:4 ratio (3 Tablespoons per glass), or more or less to taste.

I searched the internet for recipes for lemon-lime soda syrup, and all the recipes I found included lemon and lime juice mixed with simple syrup. I've always had these ingredients in the bar and I've made many lemon and/or lime sodas by mixing these. These are refreshing drinks, but they are not an adequate substitute for Sprite or 7-Up in cocktails that require them; they're just carbonated lemonade and limeade.

I decided to start with a basic tea of lemon and lime zests and citric acid, then add juice until it tasted right. It turns out that the right amount of juice is none.

Since the recipe didn't call for any bark, roots, nuts, or seeds, I figured it didn't need to boil for the full 20 minutes to extract the flavors. I decided to cut the boil time to 10 minutes (It was probably closer to 8 minutes when I pulled it off the burner).

It was very easy to strain; it went right through the coffee filter.

I used white sugar instead of agave syrup to keep the final syrup as light-colored as possible.

Taste Test

by itself, the syrup tastes remarkably like Froot Loops. Mixed with soda it makes a very convincing substitute for Sprite or 7-Up. I made a cocktail by mixing it with whiskey (a 7-and-7), and I would not have been able to tell it wasn't a commercial soda.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cola Syrup Recipe with Kola Nut

A year ago, the New York Times published this recipe for cola syrup.

I won't bother posting an illustrated step-by-step recipe since this blog already did a much better job of that than I could.

I've made a couple of batches attempting to add kola nut to the recipe.  The kola nut that I get (from this source) is hard as a rock, and boiling for 20 minutes wasn't sufficient to extract much.  So I start simmering the kola (2 Tablespoons) in 3 1/4 Cups water for 20 minutes, than I add the rest of the ingredients:

zest of 2 Oranges
zest of 1 Lemon
zest of 1 Lime
2 tsp Fresh Ginger
1 inch Vanilla Bean (split)
1/2 tsp Lavender
1/2 tsp Citric Acid
1/8 tsp Star Anise (one point)
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Cinnamon

and simmer for 20 minutes more.  The resulting tea is difficult to strain; after straining the big stuff out, the rest won't go through a coffee filter.  The best I could do was let the particulates settle in the fridge overnight and gently decant all but the settled out bit the next day.

Next, I returned the tea to the stove to add the sugar.  For each cup of tea, I added 1 1/2 oz. of brown sugar, and 10 1/2 oz. of white sugar (i.e.  I put 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar in a measuring cup, and fill to the 1 1/2 cup line with white sugar).

At this stage, the recipe also calls for caramel color, but I was unable to find any of that.  This step is optional and can be skipped, but I still decided to color it with regular food coloring (4 drops of black, 8 drops red, 12 drops yellow) which worked just fine.

Taste Test

I made a Rum and Coke with 3 Tablespoons rum, 3 Tablespoons cola syrup and filled the rest of the glass with soda water.

If I had ordered a rum and coke at a bar and they served me this, I would be convinced that the bartender used spiced rum, and accidentally started pouring ginger ale in it before noticing their mistake and switching to cola.  It's a tasty beverage, but nobody would confuse it for a typical rum and coke.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cinchona vs. Quassia Tonic Syrup

The cinchona bark I ordered came in the mail, so I decided to have a taste test between the cinchona and the quassia tonic syrups.

I made two tonic syrups using the standard Morgenthaler recipe with a few adjustments to my taste.  I used 1/4 the amount of quassia (1 1/2 teaspoons) than chincona (2 Tablespoons), otherwise, all the other ingredients were identical:

2 1/4 Cup water
zest of one lime
zest of one lemon
one lemongrass stalk (almost 1/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons citric acid
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries (about 10 berries)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Boil for 20 minutes, then strain.  This coffee filter/french press combo worked  well:

I also let them sit overnight in the fridge to let the particulates settle.  Then I carefully decanted the top 8 ounces and dumped the last bit (less than one ounce).

I brought the 1 cup of tea to a boil and added 3/4 Cup agave syrup. When it was cooled, I had about 12 ounces of syrup.

Taste Test:  

The cinchona wins on the most important factor:  It tastes better.  It has more character.  The quassia is so bitter that I can only use a small amount; any other flavors the bark might have is too dilute to taste.

But quassia does make a perfectly tasty tonic and is an adequate substitute for cinchona.  It has a few other factors in it's favor:

 - It's easier to obtain.
 - It's cheaper.  It's half the cost per pound, plus it's available in smaller quantities, plus you use only 1/4 as much per batch.  I could only find cinchona by the pound for @ $36.  I could buy 4 oz. of quassia for @ $4.  I can make the same number of batches for 1/9th the cost.
 - It's color is more like standard tonic.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kittens in the Sun

Gort just waking up from a nap on the sunny windowsill. 

Klaatu bathing in the sun in the kitchen. 

Henri being all kinds of naughty.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Asha's Sawtooth Star Quilt: Part 3 - Piecing the Sawtooth Star Blocks

These are my Calculations:

The seam allowance calcs are the same as in the previous post:

    a+ = a*SQRT(2) + a
    a = .25 inch

Patch B is exactly the same dimensions as in the Double Snowball block:  half triangles made from a square of 2 7/8 inches.  Cut 4 squares (8 triangles) per block.

Patch D is a 4 1/2 inch square - 1 per block.

Patch E is a 5 3/16 inch square cut into 4 quarter triangles - 1 square (4 triangles) per block.  These need to be quarter triangles instead of half triangles because the grain edge will be the outside of the block.  It also keeps any printed pattern oriented correctly.

Patch F - These are the 2 1/2 inch squares in the corners that I forgot to label in my calcs;  cut 4 of these per block.

TIP:  Trim the Corners

I find that it makes it easier to align my triangular pieces if I trim the corners off:

For Patch B, Trim the corners perpendicular to the legs of the triangle at 2 1/2 inches.  This makes it easier to align  with Patch F.

For Patch E, trim the corners perpendicular to the hypotenuse such that the hypotenuse is 4 1/2 inches with the point of the right triangle lined up at the 2 1/4 inch midpoint.  Then trim the point of the right triangle parallel to the hypotenuse at 2 1/2 inches:

Another general benefit from trimming the corners off triangles is that since they are trimmed on grain, it's more easy to distinguish visually half triangles from quarter triangles:

Since there is inevitably some slop with cutting, the trimmed corners really help spot and compensate for these variances:

Assembly Order:

The first step is to assemble the Flying Geese units.  Flying Geese is the name given to the frequently occurring set of patches where the hypotenuses of two half triangles are attached to the legs of a larger quarter triangle (note:  this is a bias-to-bias seam) to create a rectangle.

There are a couple tricks and shortcuts for making Flying Geese units (described very well at The Quilter's Cache), none of which I was aware when I made this quilt.  So I just chain pieced them one at a time like any other patch.

I like to chain piece 2 blocks at at time so that I can leave one on the sewing machine while I press and assemble the next set.

 After the flying geese blocks are assembled, the next step is to attach them into the three strips of the block:

I like to press all my seams open initially, even when I intend to press them one direction or another later.  I think this helps prevent the problem of folded seams (this may be superstition on my part).

Before the next step of sewing the strips together, it is really helpful to press the seams in opposite directions where the corners are going to meet.  The general rule is to press into the darker fabric to minimize see-through.

This helps line up the intersection and hold it in place without pins.  (my pinning skills are so bad that I find that patches I've pinned have less likelihood of lining up correctly than the random chance of unpinned patches).

TIP: The Four-Patch Trick

I learned this handy trick when I was assembling the four-patch units in middle of the snail's trail blocks of my first quilt.

When you have four patches coming together at a point. push the topmost seam in opposite directions. Break the stitch or two that's holding them together with your seam-ripper.

Then press the seams in down in all four directions.  This trick noticeably flattens the bump caused by the excess fabric.

Note that in this example, I pressed in a counter clockwise direction.  To press in the other direction would have required removing more stitches (from the two other seams).  This is not plan A, but I've done it, and it doesn't seem to negatively affect the integrity of the seams, especially if I'm quilting through that point later.

Also, if see-through is a bigger consideration than block flatness, you might decide to press into the darker fabric, even if it means not doing the four-patch trick.

Another thing to consider with pressing this block is whether you plan on quilting along the seams (stitch in the ditch).  If so, leaving any seams pressed open would be inadvisable.

< Part 2

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Quassia Tonic Syrup Recipe

When I searched the internet for tonic syrup recipes, this one by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a bartender at Clyde Common in Portland seemed to be the most essential one as several of the other recipes referenced it.

The key ingredient, cinchona bark (quinine), turned out to be the most difficult to obtain. My local source, Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, does not have it, but they did have quassia. Quassia is a bittering ingredient used in other liquors including a substitute for hops in beer.

I ordered cinchona bark from another source, but until it arrives, I thought I'd experiment with the quassia.

First, I made a tea by boiling 2 Tablespoons of quassia bark in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes, then filtering. This is the concentration of cinchona bark that the Morgenthaler recipe calls for.

Taste test: Yowza! that's bitter! I don't know how it would compare to the same concentration of cinchona, but I'm not going to be able to drink a tonic this bitter. Diluting the tea 50% made it more palatable; I will use half this amount in the tonic recipe.

Now to make the tonic.

Since I'm substituting the key ingredient, I figure I better follow the rest of the recipe to the letter (beside scaling down the quantities by half) so there are no other factors confusing the process.

1 T - Quassia Bark
2 T - Citric Acid
1/2 C - Chopped Lemongrass (two stalks)
1/2 tsp - Allspice berries
zests of 1 lime, l lemon, and 1 orange
1/8 tsp - salt

3/4 C - Agave Syrup (for each cup of filtered tea)

Boil the ingredients (except for the agave syrup) for 20 minutes.

Filter until clear. This process is cumbersome. I'll be looking for more efficient methods to do this.

Taste test: This is very potent. The flavor balance seem right (maybe the sourness from the citric acid is too pronounced). I hope that diluting with sugar (and soda water and gin) will mellow it out enough. I worry that reducing the recipe by half was a mistake; maybe this can't be figured linearly. If I lose a cup of water from the boiling and filtering process either way (4 cups becomes 3, 2 cups becomes 1) then I end up with half the ingredients in a third of the water - it's too concentrated. Maybe I should dilute the tea with a half cup of water. Maybe I'm over-thinking this.

After the boiling and filtering, I ended up with a exactly 1 cup of tea. I bring that to a boil and add 3/4 Cup of Agave Syrup.

After it's cooled. It's time for the big test: The Gin and Tonic.

In a rocks glass with ice, add:
2 T Gin
2 T Tonic syrup
Fill with soda water.

Taste test: This is Awesome! It turns out I didn't need to be concerned about it being too bitter, too sour, or too potent. It does emphasize the tonic over the gin, but I'm okay with that. Or you could just tweak the portions of gin and syrup to fix that.

It is a tad citrus-y. I normally add a splash of lime juice to my G-n-Ts, but I'd rather remove a splash from this one. Perhaps I could reduce the amount of zests and/or lemongrass.

The flavor balances are spot on initially, but the bitter wants to stick around after the rest of the flavors have left the party. It's not entirely unwelcome, but I'm curious if this is a difference between the quassia and cinchona.

This doesn't taste like store-bought tonic, but the reviews of the recipe prepared me to expect that. The real test is to see how this compares to the cinchona tonic.

I look forward to finding out.

UPDATE:  I found out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Asha's Sawtooth Star Quilt: Part 2 - Piecing the Double Snowball Blocks

Here are my calculations: 

Piece A is a square approximately 6 3/16 in.  This patch is on-point so if you are using a print that has an image or directional pattern on it you will have to decide whether you want the image/pattern to be tilted, or if you want all four sides to be cut on the bias.

Piece B is a square approximately 2 7/8 in. cut in half diagonally. Additionally, I like to trim the acute corners with cuts perpendicular to the hypotenuse such that the hypotenuse is 2 1/2 inches - this makes it easier to line up the patches win piecing.

Piece C is a trapezoid cut to the dimensions described above.  I tried two ways to rotary cut this piece:

  The Hard Way (cut first) - Cut a strip 1 15/16 in. thick and 6 7/8 in. long.  Cut off the corners at 45 degrees, and verify that the top measures 3 1/16 when this is done.  This leaves the short sides of the trapezoid (the sides that will ultimately be the edges of the block) on bias, but I thought it was better to have the long seams on grain.  If you prefer the edge seams to be on grain (or if your printed image/pattern requires it), you can start with a 4 7/8 inch square and cut diagonally into half triangles,  then make a cut parallel to the hypotenuse 1 15/16 inches wide.

  The Easy Way (sew first) - Cut the 1 15/16 in. strip the same length as the Piece A (6 3/16 in.).


Sew four of these patches to the Piece A and press the seams open.  Then rotary cut at 1/4 inch from the corner (making sure to keep the top and bottom points for the square lined up with your ruler).


What Not To Do:


I don't know how I got this far before I realized I was doing it wrong!

 < Part 1       Part 2 >