Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our non-traditional Christmas!

We have had a really nice day today, just our little family (Bryan, Pilgrim, and me)! We never left the house! After some homemade orange cinnamon rolls reheated from yesterday and a latte,
we watched a couple episodes of Modern Family, ate a grapefruit, played our new board game (Ticket to Ride), and then made crawfish inside-out sushi rolls with avocado, green pepper, and a Crystal hot sauce mayo! Black sesame seeds added a little crunch, and it was pretty close to perfection! We were so pleased that it worked - we're going to make more tomorrow!
Then we watched that light-hearted family movie (sarcasm), In Bruges, while a perfectly happy kitty slept in my lap, and I did a little hand quilting! Not exactly an uplifting movie per se, but Bryan liked it. Bryan is prepping some fingerling potatoes for roasting since I'm providing a warm lap for our sweet girl, and we'll have leftover braised short ribs, sautéed mushrooms, potatoes, and maybe a delicious leftover whole wheat roll (my best batch ever) in a bit for dinner! We had a piece of leftover mocha cake for our mid-movie snack, so dessert is already eaten (so good)! Perhaps another movie or some reading tonight! Low key day - exactly what I needed!

We said we weren't really exchanging gifts, but Bryan got me an awesome apron with my family tartan and seal on it, Ticket to Ride, and 2 exciting cookbooks - The Commander's Palace Cookbook (a restaurant in New Orleans that we loved on our trip in May) and "The Best Make Ahead Recipe" from Cook's Illustrated. Lots of inspiration and great ideas...can't wait to get cooking!

Becky wrote a great post about the gift-giving to the family that I wrote about a few days ago. It made me so happy to do something nice for someone really in need. Everyone in my family (both immediate and extended) is doing pretty well, so it can be a little hard this time of year to think of a gift that they want but don't already have...part of why I'm so behind on gift shopping (not too mention making presents!). It feels so good to be a tiny part of helping to make someone else's life just a little better...someone who doesn't already have more than they need (myself included).

I'm so thankful to have a loving partner, a wonderful family, a sweet little snuggle bug who loves sitting on me, very good friends, a roof over my head and delicious food to eat every day, and money for luxuries like fabric, thread, and a sewing machine! I'm so fortunate, and I realize that!

I'm also thankful for my new community through the Interwebs! I love getting to know you and your families, seeing what you are working on, being inspired, and knowing that I'm not alone in my love of creating beautiful, functional art! It's been really fun so far, and I'm looking forward to lots more sharing in 2012!

Thanks, and I hope you are having a joyful holiday season!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I won!

I've been fortunate enough to win two giveaways this year.  Back in July, when I was just starting to get into reading blogs (and before I'd even really written much on this one!), I won a fat quarter bundle of Joel Dewberry's Heirloom line from Karen Gray of Karen Gray Designs via Jennifer of Ellison Lane Quilts.  In addition to a great bundle of fabric, Karen included a quilting magazine in which she was featured - so cool!  I've yet to use that fabric, partially because I was convinced that I could make 3 different quilts out of that bundle and carefully planned my cuts based on an 18" x 22" piece of fabric before I remembered that there would be some shrinkage when I prewashed.  Whoops!  I need to redo some of my layouts before I cut into it, so...that's still on the to-do list!  (I'm very much in the pre-washing camp, in case you were wondering!)


This past week, I entered several of the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day giveaways, and I won my choice of a pattern by Amy Smart of Diary of a Quilter.  I chose her Double Crossed pattern, as it reminded me of the Urban Lattice design that I'd seen at Me? A Mom? over the summer that I never got around to making.  I have really liked this look for awhile, and I was interested to see what Amy's measurements looked like and if she had figured out a different way to do it that could go together even faster, as I definitely wasn't interested in the paper-piecing/string block method (too much work!).  Amy's method is way more my speed.  I also really like the Facets quilt that Tracey made, as well as her method.  http://traceyjayquilts.blogspot.com/2011/01/quick-how-to-urban-lattice-blocks.html
They are different enough that I may have to try both!  Double Crossed looks like a nice weekend project, which would be pretty welcome after some of my more complex piecing of late!  I might even try the "cut everything out according to the pattern measurements" method for once, instead of my usual method of coming up with my own way of doing things!

Anyway, I feel very fortunate to have had Mr. Random Number Generator land on me twice this year!  And since I tried to win a lot of books and fabric this year where I wasn't so lucky, I might just have to splurge and go on a little shopping spree, perhaps in January for my birthday (or perhaps I'll be smart and take advantage of after-Christmas sales, if those exist this year!).  Of course, I don't need any more projects or inspiration right now, nor do I need any more fabric, but...

I think one of my early 2012 projects will be to come up with a page with all the quilts and other projects I'd like to make, with the fabrics I'd like to use, so that I can have a check-list of things I want to work on (ala Candy of Candied Fabrics wonderful monthly checklist).  Someday, I'd also like to have a page showing all the quilts I've made over the years...though the picture collection process will be the most difficult part of that endeavor.  I wish I'd kept photos of all of them...especially the baby quilts I've made.  I'm hoping that I can get my brother to dig out the ones I made for my nephew when he was a baby, since they, in particular, were outstanding - one in particular where I did some incredible embroidery that I'd like to see again.  We'll see how that goes!

Today, I did a bit of piecing this morning, followed by what was supposed to be the beginning of the bake-a-rama! I've got a lemon pudding cake in the oven now, and a little cat who needed a lap. In a few minutes, I'll get up again and get the fresh rolls started, then the "Swedish Tea Ring" (aka my grandma's coffee cake). I'd hoped to make several batches of cookies, too, but truth be told, I'd rather go take a nap! Not sure why I'm so tired lately...perhaps job stress, perhaps a little cat keeping me up at night? Perhaps I'm just getting older? Anyway, we're having the big family Christmas celebration tonight with Bryan's family, and it should be really nice. Bryan's mom, Margery, is making shrimp and grits, along with a mocha cake! Bryan's SIL is bringing salad and wine, we're in charge of bread and lemon cake, so...plenty of dessert even without loads of cookies!

Hope you have a very happy holiday season,
Elle

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More progress

I spent many hours in the sewing studio over the weekend and a couple evenings last week, along with a good part of the day yesterday, and I'm making great progress on my Storm-At-Sea. I've got 4 columns joined together and a 5th column pieced.  Yesterday, I finished piecing all the little square-in-a-square blocks, as well.  I'm absolutely loving how it is coming together, and it's been made easier thanks to a $5 purchase at my new-to-me closest local quilt shop last Friday night - grippy adhesive rings that I applied to my Fast2Cut templates! I had been having a horrible time trimming my diamond units because the template kept slipping, but no more! The pics aren't great - quick snaps of the pieces laying over the side of the guest bed, but it's better than the design wall mess pictures, right?! I'm being pretty careful, and it seems to be paying off - my points are matching better than I would have expected!  It's taken a ridiculously long time, so I might not tackle it right away, but I will make one of these for myself some day.  It really is one of my very favorite designs - I love that wave on the diagonals!

I also thought I'd show some of my side projects using the scraps - these are a few of my tiny chevrons...


And a few of the pieces to make more chevrons as I get more HSTs put together into flying geese units. I also have had fun with my triangle off-cuts making little kites, then seeing them together! I'm either going to appliqué these to make little mug rugs or potentially use them as a focal point on a bigger quilt.  They end up being seven-sided, so they are a bit strange, but waste not, want not, right?  (And yes, Santa-Elle is buying herself a new ironing board for Christmas!  I might also finish up with my sewing room reorganization - that would be pretty exciting!)

I'd thought about putting some of the off-cut pieces on the back of my storm-at-sea, but I've decided that this back will be simpler than my norm...a solid with just a few stripes. The calm in the storm, so to speak - especially since I don't know yet whether it will end up as a wall hanging or being used as a sofa quilt!  

I haven't looked at enough storm-at-seas to know, but I'm thinking about just binding it when I get to the edge and not including any borders...I'm worried that they'll break up the pattern too much.  I guess I'll see when I get there...it's definitely close.  I need to piece 4 more diamond units, since I decided to go bigger than originally planned.  I've got about 9 more big SIS units to add the final triangles to, and then I just need to trim and make the columns, connect, etc.  I think one or two more good days of sewing, and I might have a complete top!  Hooray!  I have no idea how I should quilt it, either...suggestions are welcome!

My big project got pushed to the side briefly this weekend for a bit of charity sewing. Becky had blogged about making some quilts for a family that had nothing - their 18-month-old had been sleeping on a board on the floor until recently! She'd just gotten a mattress, but had no bedding, so I'd volunteered to make a fitted crib sheet out of this cute fabric I'd gotten at an online store's going-out-of-business sale.  I had a bit of fabric left over, so I made a really cute top sheet to match!  I wish you could really see the detail in this sheet...I went a bit over the top, perhaps, but it turned out so great ("adorable" was Becky's word!)!  I sewed it such that I had a fold of white sheet at the top, which I folded over again and top-stitched so it has a nice thick edge...easier for little hands to grab to pull up or down. Of course, the band of print just makes it so pretty!  I thought about doing a blind hem, but decided instead to turn over two layers of fabric and top stitch around the entire perimeter in hopes that it will be sturdier.  I know it's silly to get excited about making bedding, but it is something I really enjoy doing, and I love the idea that I've been able to help someone while doing something I enjoy!  The crib sheet has French seams and elastic across the corners in a diagonal so it hooks under the bed - I'm hoping that will work better than the typical way elastic is applied to keep the fitted sheet secure. 

Becky is finishing quilts for both kids and delivering them on Christmas Eve, so I'm glad that these arrived in New York in time for delivery (and so that Becky could incorporate the remaining pieces of the print onto the back)...hope it makes someone's Christmas a little brighter!

I'm also making progress on the hand-quilting on Anne's mini quilt...though it's a little slower than I'd like, since usually as soon as I sit down, I have a cat in my lap, and she can be a little hard to quilt around!  I'll probably take it home to Georgia after Christmas if there is room in my bag, since I suspect I'll do a fair amount of "visiting" with my family.  I'm only there for 5 days, and I have one friend who wants help making a t-shirt quilt, along with a trip to visit my brother and nephew in Athens, so I'm sure it will be a whirlwind, but I love having some hand-work with me - that ensures that the trip won't be dull (indeed, if I have sewing, we'll never sit down)!  I'm really looking forward to the trip...I've missed my parents a lot, despite frequent phone calls.  Of course, I'll miss Bryan and Pilgrim when I'm there...I guess it is a good problem to have to love and be loved by people in multiple states!

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Storm at Sea Preview...

I thought I'd give a few sneak peaks of my current piecing project (while I handquilt Anne's quilt).  This quilt is long, long overdue.  It was meant to be a wedding present for my friends, Talia and Aaron, who were married on Columbus Day weekend of 2009.  I had given them a beautiful piece of pottery as their official wedding present before they even got married, so my goal was to have it finished by last Columbus Day.  Well, I'd made great progress, having finished lots of diamond units and the middle part of the large square-in-a-square units, but I got stuck on layout.  I'd tried this arrangement, carefully balancing the tones of the center squares and the diamond units, and then I didn't know where to go next.

I tried various designs, and even had Talia stop by to take a look on our way to the Renn Fest over the summer.  Despite her assurances that she'd like it however it turned out, I was unhappy with my options, so I set it aside and worked on Anne's quilts.

Well, I got it back out recently and put it up on the design wall, and it seemed to just fall into place (or I decided to just go with it...probably the latter!).

It doesn't look like much here...I took lots of pictures (most of which I'll spare you) because my pieces have had a tendency to fall off the piece of flannel when my cat comes in to ask me to return to being social (another reason to make a real design wall!).  But, over the last week, I've managed to get 3 columns put together, and I'm loving it!  It is nothing if not time-consuming, especially since my perfectionist side is coming out in spades, leading to...drum roll...lots of pinning!

My goal now is to finish 1 column per evening.  That may be difficult to keep up, since Bryan does occasionally like to see my face, but still...I really want to get this done.  (Bryan asked me on our walk on Sunday if his t-shirt quilt could get into the mix, and I told him I had to finish this first, so I suppose that may help!)  Hopefully Congress will adjourn soon so I can take a few vacation days and sew all day...my idea of heaven!  I wish I could have taken a picture of the two columns that have already been stitched together, but it was quite dark last night, and the only place to photograph them would be on the bed, which, despite my organizational efforts, is still covered with fabric.  I tell myself that if I just sew faster, I'll use up my fabric before I finish getting it all put away.  Of course, since I've decided to make a Chasing Chevrons mini-quilt with the off cuts from my little square-in-a-square units, that seems unlikely.  The chevrons will finish at maybe 2 or 2.5 inches.  But...they are a great way to use leaders and enders and have a surprise extra quilt when it's all done.  That is what I'm telling myself as I try not to burn my fingers ironing open seams on itty-bitty half-square triangles!

So much to sew, so little time!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Culinaerie, or why you should become a "Master" Chef

I'm very sad this week, as I don't have my cooking class to go to anymore.  For 24 weeks this year, I've been taking the greatest cooking class (called the "Master Series") at the greatest place - Culinaerie.  Indeed, I think that, having taken both 12-week sessions, I can now call myself a "Master" without choking.  (My mom would call me the "Master of Disaster", and she would not be entirely wrong, though I aim to show her otherwise on my next visit home in just a few weeks - hooray for cooking with/for my parental units (as I lovingly refer to them)!) 

I'm now going to gush about how Culinaerie has changed my life, and I feel like I should say, upfront, that I get nothing from this endorsement except the satisfaction of hopefully helping other people change their life for the better by really learning how to cook, as I did!  I thought about sending my chef-instructor a gushy letter as a testimonial, but this is so much better and more embarassing (as well as being slightly less stalker-like, hopefully).  Hmmm...

My Culinaerie adventure started almost 2 years ago, when I saw a Living Social deal on a knife-skills class at this place I had sort of heard about from my friend, Anne.  Anne's husband had bought her a gift certificate for a class at Culinaerie some time ago, and I was intrigued, but thought nothing more about it until taking part of a knife-skills class at the Washington Metropolitan Food and Wine Show (or something like that) with my friend Heather.  I'd always been horrible at cutting things (without a rotary cutter), despite being in other respects a decent cook.  (Indeed, in the eyes of many of my friends and colleagues I was already a great chef, having gone to baking school in Vermont for a week (hooray for King Arthur Flour) and taken a couple of one-time demo classes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris on vacations there, and more importantly, having grown up cooking with both of my parents - to the point that we even self-published a family cookbook when I was little.)  But, in reality, I was slow, not confident, and I preferred baking, as that didn't require the good knife skills that savory cooking did.  After seeing in that partial class that knife skills are the difference between cooking being a joy and a hassle, I decided that I needed to take an actual class, and my birthday was coming up, so I jumped on this Living Social deal and convinced 9 of my friends to do the same in just one day - it was a knife skills class for $40 and included dinner - ummm...yeah!  And yes, my friends love me - I'm extremely fortunate!

That said, scheduling 10 people became a nightmare, so we ended up having to split the group up, and thankfully, my friend Hanna gave me her slot when neither date worked for her so that I could be with both groups, since the point of this knife-stravaganza was to be my birthday celebration.  It was a blast both times, and getting to go twice really cemented things for me (I'm a slow learner, apparently!).  I immediately saw a huge improvement in my cooking (and enjoyment of cooking), so Anne and I decided to take a 3-week sauce class together over the summer.  It was a great introduction to sauces, and truly, being able to make proper sauces is the difference between being a cook and a chef.  I'm still working on it, but I've had some pretty great results.  That class, also, was a great introduction because sauces are covered in context throughout the Master series.  (I would have been fine to have not taken the sauce class, but again, it's the repetition and context that makes it come together to be part of my repertoire, and I think I might have been a little overwhelmed at times had I not had sauces first.) 

Then, I guess it was about this time last year, Anne and Cillian were out to dinner with Bryan and me, and we decided that Anne and I should take the "Master series", even though it was part II.  It was a big decision - at $975, it was a major investment, and I definitely gulped at the price.  However, I can now say, it was SOOOO worth it!  Each session is 12 classes, and each class is 3 hours.  Most classes had about 1.5 hours of instruction and demoing by Chef Susan Watterson.  She covered an insane amount of material in that time, as well as handing out tastes of the things she discussed, and then we had the opportunity to use her wonderful kitchen, ingredients, and equipment to practice the techniques that she had just taught us.  We made our dinner for that night (though I often took what I'd make home for leftovers for at least lunch the next day).  Being able to try different spices and flavor profiles without investing in each new spice - that's huge!  And most importantly, the techniques I learned will serve me well for my entire life, plus many of them will save me money.  Between the series last winter/spring and the series that just ended, I learned how to debone chickens, cornish game hens, fish, and lots of other bony things and then cook them perfectly!  That means I can buy whole organic chickens, which cost much less than just buying organic chicken breasts, and I can use every bit of what I've purchased to make a huge variety of meals.  We talked about eggs for an entire class, and that didn't seem like long enough - I'm an even bigger fan of the Incredible Edible Egg now!  We covered vegetables, fruits, greens (which was really a class all about salads, which, I must say, are a lot more varied than I ever would have realized!), and grains.  We had classes on pastry, bread, and chocolate.  I learned how to cook shellfish and have since made wonderful clam chowder and an asian-inspired clam soup with soba noodles.  In our crustacean class, I cooked a lobster perfectly, and wow - let me tell you how much Bryan liked it when I came home that night!  I had lobster for our appetizer the next night, as well as jambalaya, shrimp bisque, and a bit of a ginger, lime, scallion compound butter that was meant to be served with crawfish over a piece of fish, but which I ended up using to reheat roasted sweet potatoes, and let me tell you, wow!  I've made boeuf bourginon multiple times.  I've braised short ribs, made chicken stock, and I'm now the rice pilaf queen.  I would have to write a book to describe how much I've learned, and the best part is, I'm only going to get better as I use what I've learned to continue to experiment in a way that promises to have more success than failure.  I love cooking now - it's an adventure every time I step into the kitchen if I want it to be (though I'm sure there will still be days when I eat plain cheerios with a banana).  Susan really focuses on both mental and physical mis en place - a French term meaning roughly "everything in its place".  When I stop and think about what I'm making and prepare accordingly, I can do some pretty wonderful things!

Here's Susan, my culinary hero:


And she is standing behind part of the spread from our final class - a class on hors d'oeuvres.  We watched her make pate a choux, work with phyllo dough, make crepes, and shape puff pastry, and then we had the closest thing we've had to a "Top Chef" style competition.  We had one hour to make enough pieces to feed the whole class, and the sky was the limit.  We had all learned so much, as was evident as we celebrated over a lovely collection of hors d'oeuvres, sipped wine, and talked food.


It was a great end to the class, except that I don't want it to end!  It's been one of the things that I've looked forward to every week for the last 12 weeks - I'm happy to say I never missed a single class all year, and I always tried to make the best possible use of my time in class to try as many of the techniques that she had demonstrated as possible.  At the end of the class, Susan gives us a recipe packet - as we went along, we took notes, but the whole point of the class is to learn how to cook intuitively without needing recipes.  I like looking at the recipes to jog my memory, but I've already had fun coming up with my own variations.  This is the ultimate skill set for looking in your pantry/freezer/refrigerator and being able to answer the question "what's for dinner" in a way that makes use of what you have and allows you to make something delicious!

So, this is my pitch - I think everyone with an interest in food or who plans to feed their family should take a class like this!  Being a better cook makes it possible to eat better/cheaper/healthier and probably faster, which, of course, leaves more time for quilting!  I wish that these skills were taught to kids in home ec in schools, because I can't believe I've survived into my 30s without knowing what I know now.  I truly believe that if people knew how to cook better for themselves, without needing processed and "convenience" foods, we'd have a healthier, happier country.  And we'd all consume a lot more cream sauces.  YUM!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Pinned, and a Placemat...

Well, I didn't get as much sewing (or studio organizing) done as I'd hoped over the weekend.  Instead, I scraped and painted around our front door, since that's been on our "to-do" list since July and we had a lovely bit of warm, sunny weather that I wanted to take advantage of.  When he was done raking the leaves in the front yard, I had Bryan dig a trench for me to plant some bulbs in (that I bought last year and never got around to planting).  Unfortunately, I was so worn out from my painting duties that I didn't get them planted.  Now, it is really cold and the trench is filled with water from our rain/sleet/wintry mix.  Oops!  Indeed, my exhaustion led to a call for pizza from Three Brothers for dinner...a sign that I was really wiped out (though it did taste good)!

We spent much of Sunday making food for the week.  Cauliflower garlic saffron soup for lunch, which was disappointing perhaps because my cauliflower was too old and I didn't use homemade chicken stock or enough saffron - d'oh!  We made a huge pot of spaghetti sauce for weeknight meals and the freezer, and then for dinner had chicken breasts baked with cumin and adobo spices, topped with a chipotle, lime, peppadew, garlic compound butter with a side of sauteed mushrooms and roasted rosemary olive oil fingerling potatoes.  I even managed to make my Monday dinner at the same time with the extra bit of chicken thighs from the freezer (I had broken down and made stock from 2 organic chickens a couple of months ago and had frozen the extra meat) - so I used my mushroom pan to make a quick chicken with mushroom cream sauce, which, when served over the extra potatoes, was to die-for.

I did manage to get the new quilt pinned, and I've begun the quilting.



Anne handquilts all the quilts that she makes and gives (which always amazes me, considering how many she has made and given away to her cadre of pregnant friends!)  I decided this quilt was worthy of some hand-quilting (plus I couldn't decide how I wanted to quilt it by machine!), so I've gone ahead and marked flowers in the center of each of the squares.  I was planning to free-hand about a 1/4 inch from the edges in all of the white parts, but I'm thinking it is probably worth it to mark it, since this was my best effort at free-handing...not exactly perfect (though probably not bad enough to pull out - I'll see when it's all done whether it bothers me).  The white center squares are 2 inches, so I'm only doing a square that is about 1.5"/side - in theory that shouldn't take too long, plus I've been wanting to have something I can do downstairs so I can be busy while watching/listening to television by/with Bryan.  [We are totally hooked on Modern Family and trying to catch up - just finished watching the first season, and I can't remember when I've liked a tv show more, but that one isn't ideal for quilting, what with actually watching it and laughing!]  I'm contemplating running some straight lines through the sashing by machine, but I don't want to lose the basket-weave effect (and I think starting and stopping might be annoying), so I'm still debating it, plus it would be nice to give her a quilt that is completely hand-quilted.  I think it will be quilted enough with the white spaces (and the pink flowers) to be strong, but I expect this to be washed a lot, so that's the challenge/debate of leaving off all the machine-quilting.  I also must say, if I didn't love my friend as much as I do, I'd have a very hard time giving this one away - I'm so happy with how it is turning out!  The night-time pictures on my sewing table don't really do it justice!

Speaking of giving things away, I made a really cool t-shirt quilt for my aunts this summer that was delivered on the day of their civil union in Illinois.
Eventually I'll get a better picture of it from them - one where it is actually on the bed instead of me trying to hold it up in the living room - it's heavy!  (I'll also learn how to make photos flip to the correct orientation.)  Anyway, I bought a LOT of extra fabric for it, since I wanted to be sure to have enough and, as per usual, I was coming up with the design as I went along.  I made them 4 pillowcases, including a little flange with some of the extra piano keys that you can barely see on the side (bottom, in this picture) of the quilt.  (They also ran across the back - I used a jelly roll of batik purples that I'd been saving for a long time for a very special use, and this definitely qualified!) 

But I still had more fabric!  So, I made my "aunt-in-law", Linda, an improv-pieced/quilted ipad cover.  Linda completely rocks my world, and she sadly had recently gotten rid of a lot of her old t-shirts, so when I visited them and brought up the t-shirt quilt idea again, Casey lucked out, but Linda got left out.  So, I really wanted to have something that was just for her to make up for my poor communication about the idea.

This photo was before I quilted it.  I guess I didn't take any pictures of the finished work, which is ashame since the quilting on it was really cool.  I'll request that picture, too - I have a horrible tendency to give away presents before photographing them, but I'm trying to get better!  I may have made the cover marginally too small - it's probably a tight enough fit that it isn't being used, since I based it on the size without a protective cover (and wanted it to be snug, since it is also a carrying case the way I designed the handle/flap).  I have ideas for a better one at some point, perhaps one that Linda picks out the colors for, rather than trying to have it be a surprise (in this case, it was for her birthday and our visit in August).  I enjoyed making it - very freeing to just play with the fabric!

Well, I still have more fabric, but not too much more!


So...I decided I could finally use it all up with placemats (again, imagine the photo flipped 90 degrees!).  The DC Modern Quilt Guild met out at Capital Quilts, my normal LQS, and the place where I purchased all this excess yardage!  Susan, the co-owner and head quilting cheerleader, showed us her placemat method, which involves sewing the strips right onto the batting and backing so that it is quilted as you add each piece.  I used this flip and sew/quilt method of construction, but I decided that instead of doing the normal binding, I would just sew the back around to the front, at least on this one - the test model - which I decided to keep for me.  I eat lunch at my desk now rather than taking a lunch break, in an effort to be able to spend less time at the office and more time at home with my honey (and commuting almost 2 hours/day makes that even more essential).  In an effort to protect the wood on my desk, I decided a placemat is in order, and in the one day that I've used it, I've loved it (though it helps that purple is one of my favorite colors). 

I may have enough fabric to bind all 4 placemats that I've got cut out for my aunts (thanks to a fun demo of an Accu-quilt cutting machine), but I'll have to see.  In case I don't, I'm going to use some tricks I learned from the test one to make it possible to bring the back around to the front for the binding in a much neater fashion, since it would definitely miss the point to have to buy more fabric to finish them!  I also gave some thought to the idea of planned obsolescence.  With a quilt that is meant to be a family heirloom, you want it to last forever, and then a bias-cut binding is definitely the way to go.  But with placemats...well, tastes change, and I think it is nice to have them wear out eventually, since that is a great excuse to get/make some new ones (and if they were really loved, I could always rebind them).  So, for these, I'll either use a straight-grained binding if I have enough fabric left, or I'll just fold over the backs and not worry about it!  (I will, however, try to do a better job on the next ones with making a little tutorial with the tricks I've learned, since I doubt I'm the only one who overbuys fabric!)

Tonight, we're off to see the Muppet Movie.  I'm more than a little excited!