Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Amazing Italian Pasta Sauces

Josh here, again!

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite subjects--cooking. More specifically, Italian cooking.

I've shared our signature Sunday spaghetti and meat sauce recipe before, so today I wanted to share a great tip on fresh tomatoes in pasta sauces.

Unfortunately, tomato season is over for us, but we can still find some fresh heirloom tomatoes at the local grocery store. These large, maroon, gnarly tomatoes are wonderful in sauces.

Do you know the secret to cooking good sauce from fresh tomatoes?

http://www.craftsy.com/ext/LeahDay_456_CPYou need to skin the tomato, which is easier said than done. However, there's a trick to this... with a small, sharp pairing knife, carefully slit a shallow X at the bottom of the tomato. Bring a pot of water to a mild boil, and using a large slotted spoon, parboil the tomatoes for no more than 1 minute. Immediately scoop out the tomatoes and plunge into a bowl of ice water.

Let cool, and the skin will literally come right off with minimal effort.

Skins do not break down in sauces, and they shred apart, leaving tiny rolled up tubes in your sauce... and that is not good eats!

This tip comes from the excellent craftsy cooking course, Classic Italian Pasta Sauces, from chef Giuliano Hazan. If you ever wanted to cook authentic, rustic Italian tomato and meat-based sauces, this class is a must-watch. I never knew how simple a tomato sauce could be; in fact, there is one particular family recipe Chef Hazan shares that only has four ingredients--none of which is olive oil, parsley, or basil!

http://www.craftsy.com/ext/LeahDay_456_CP

I love to turn the class on via our family iPad and watch it while I prepare dinner. Chef Hazan is a great instructor and his recipes are simply incredible... the one family recipe pictured above is so amazing it's now one of our go-to staples. And did I mention how easy it is? You can literally throw this together in minutes, cook on the stove, and then serve immediately with your choice of steaming pasta.

Click here to check out "Classic Italian Pasta Sauces" and get the class at a discount.

See you next week,

Josh

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Josh's Circles and Wiggles in a Basket Block

Josh here. Today I'm stitching circles and wiggles in a basket block.


And here is the finish:


I'm stitching on Spoonflower cheater cloth. This fabric comes to you already marked, so no piecing required. This is great for beginners! We also have four colorways available for you to choose from.

See you next week!

Josh

Monday, September 15, 2014

44. Circles and Wiggles in a Basket Block

Let's knock out another basket block today with circles and wiggles!

Yes, I know circles are the least favorite design of the year. They are challenging even for me, even marking every single shape on the quilt. I'm not exactly sure why - maybe it has to do with swinging around the circle and not being able to see the entire thing as you stitch it.

Even if you make a mistake, remember the trick about filling in circles with spirals to hide mistakes. It's a nice way to add more texture and it stops you from picking up your seam ripper to rip out a wobbly circle.

If you haven't seen this spiral in a circle trick check it out in this video:


Wishing you could join in the fun of this quilt along? Jump into this project and get everything you need - both piecing AND free motion quilting designs in the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.
http://www.leahday.com/shop/product/building-blocks-printed-quilt-pattern/
Click Here to check out the PRINT version
http://www.leahday.com/shop/product/building-blocks-download-quilt-pattern/
Click here to check out the DOWNLOAD version
I know this design isn't the easiest and I bet Josh is going to change it up a lot tomorrow so make sure to swing by to check out his take on this design!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Getting lost in freestanding lace

I've been quiet for a few days celebrating the launch of my new book and checking in with my goals for the coming year. One of my major goals is to get more familiar with embroidery and learn how to design and digitize beautiful designs that my machine can stitch out with a touch of a button.

Why am I so fascinated by this? Because you can make gorgeous things that used to take months or years by hand and now we can make them in minutes!

http://www.urbanthreads.com/products.aspx?productid=UTP1132
This is a beautiful freestanding lace butterfly from Urban Threads. I've seen ads for Urban Threads and their funky, steampunk and gothic inspired designs. Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and went searching through their free standing lace designs and fell in love with the Evenfall Lace collection

This was so fascinating to watch stitch out because free standing lace is just thread! I hooped a piece of clear, water soluble stabilizer (Super Solvy) and Aurifill 50 wt cotton thread and that's it. Once the piece was stitched, I soaked it in water and all the solvy melted away leaving just the lacy thread butterfly.

Right now I can only dream of digitizing something like this. I'm so confused by digitizing and really have no desire to spend MORE time on my computer learning more software. At this point I just want to get more comfortable with embroidery and learn more about it so I've decided to challenge myself to stitch SOMETHING on my machine every day.

I've been inspired by many Craftsy classes like the Elegant Embroidered Quilt and In the Hoop Gifts. These classes show how beautiful embroidery designs can really punch up a simple quilt and how to make something completely in the hoop with no extra stitching on my machine. It's just amazing what you can do with an embroidery machine and I really haven't pushed myself to learn beyond the basics.

So I'm going to start stitching out something new every day. It might be super simple or it might be extremely complex. I know for a fact that learning this way works and in the end, I'll be able to put all the thread, stabilizer, and fabric to good use. Yep, everyone in my family is going to get something embroidered for Christmas!

Off to embroider!

Leah Day

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to Piece Perfect Quilts

Yay! It's finally time to release my new book How to Piece Perfect Quilts!

http://www.leahday.com/shop/product/piece-perfect-quilts/
I'm so thrilled to be releasing this book today! Click here to check it out now!

Just in case you don't recognize the title, this was actually the very first book I wrote, way back in 2009 before I started this blog. Back then I did a lot more piecing than quilting (hard to believe, right?!) and wanted to share all my tips for piecing blocks and quilts perfectly.

Needless to say, my writing ability has definitely improved over the last five years. Also technology as seriously changed during this time and our biggest request was to make this book tablet-compatible.

So it made sense to take this book down when we changed websites last year so I could edit, spruce it up, and make it tablet-compatible.

Well, after this experience I now know that changing an existing book is twice as much work as writing a new book! Josh and I teamed up to edit and reorganize the information into eleven chapters. Then I taught my dad cut and piece as we recreated the five quilt projects in the book with prettier fabric colors and much better photos.

Teaching Dad how to cut and piece fabric while working on this book was a great experience. As he asked questions and issues came up, I added those tips to the book. I also decided to insert the original videos (yes, those shot back in 2009 when I was just 25 years old) into the book as well. They might not be the most polished videos I've ever created, but they're still great visual demonstration of how to piece perfectly.

After all this hard work, it feels wonderful to be able to release this book today and know that it's now the best book I could ever write about piecing! I really hope it helps all quilters learn how to prepare fabric, cut, and piece blocks and quilts with confidence.

Now some nitty gritty - due to amazingly good luck we actually have two different versions of the book ready today!

http://www.leahday.com/shop/product/piece-perfect-quilts/
Ebook version - This is an awesome downloadable edition you can order right now, download immediately, and then print on your computer or transfer to your tablet to read and enjoy. This edition also includes links to the 22 piecing videos within the book itself. I've also linked up the table of contents so it's easy to navigate through the book and jump to the chapters you wish to read.

Note - this is an ebook and designed for tablets like iPad using a PDF reading app like iBooks. We will have a kindle version available soon.

http://www.amazon.com/Piece-Perfect-Quilts-Stitch-Volume/dp/1501000373/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-1&keywords=how+to+piece+perfect+quilts
Print version - Yes! For the first time ever, this book is available in print! The one downside to the print edition is we couldn't include the videos (where would we link them?!) The upside is you don't have to mess with downloading and printing it yourself. If you're not particularly computer savvy, this is definitely the version for you!

Whew! This has been a lot of work all summer long, but holding the printed book in my hands, or scrolling through the ebook on my iPad, I know that every second spend working on this book was well worth it!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Josh's Stippling & Echo Shell in a Basket Block

Josh here for another block in our basket series. Today I'm stitching Echo Shell and Stippling.


I enjoyed stitching these echo shells. It was so helpful that the echoes were more in the center of the block, opposed to along the perimeter where the stippling is.

The block being set at a right angle was also a great help in my stitching. The angle definitely made things easier. Keep in mind, Leah is left-handed, I am right-handed, so we often utilize opposing angles when we free motion quilt.

I feel I am gaining skill and confidence in my stippling. No real issues to report, and stitching the curved shapes in both stippling and the echo shell was much  more comfortable and came far more naturally to me than they did when I was starting out.

Here is the completed block:


This was a quick and easy block, and it was a lot of fun to stitch out. Very minimal, almost no travel stitching. Looking at the finished block, I now wish I had stitched in the handle. Instead of following the premarked cheater Spoonflower lines, I would have marked outside the path and made a tight, slinkie-like fill through the handle.

And on the note of baskets... the summer growing season is over here in NC, and I just used up our last basketful of green tomatoes. If you still have a lot of green tomatoes on the vine, here is a quick, super easy soup to throw together which is light, delicious, and the perfect end to the summer.

Summer's End Green Tomato Soup

3-4 medium green tomatoes, chopped in 1/2" pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
Kosher or sea salt
Black pepper
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 pound fresh bratwurst sausage, or 1 pound ground chuck
2 cups homemade chicken stock, or store bought

Brown meat in a cast iron pan, set aside in a colander with paper towel beneath the meat. Drain well and keep aside.

Wipe down cast iron pan, return to heat, add olive oil. Saute onion and green tomatoes with bay leaf for at least 8 minutes. Your goal is to remove the toughness and bitterness from the unripened tomatoes. When fully sweated, add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate and stir for another 2 minutes.

Add drained and degreased meat and chicken stock. Season with a little more salt and pepper and dried parsley. Cook at medium heat until soup begins to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Can be served with a cilantro and sour cream coleslaw, a splash of Tabasco sauce, and tortilla chips.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Satin Stitching Snag

Alright, I'm hitting against a major design snag in our new quilt along and I need your help!

Here's the deal: my over-complicating nature has flexed her wings and discovered that there are two ways to do machine applique satin stitch:

1 - Satin stitch the block - This requires stabilizer, but with a little practice you can produce some nice looking satin stitching over the edges of your applique. When quilted, you'll stitch on either side of the satin stitching, which will leave a gap like this on the back:

2 - Satin stitch the quilt - This does not require stabilizer because once the quilt is basted with backing and batting, those extra layers stabilize the satin stitching enough. This feels a little more challenging because everything is squishy because of the batting.

The thing I'm obsessing about is the satin stitching also will obviously show on the back. I know, I know - the back is the BACK, but would this bug you?

Of course, I've already stitched two of mine one way...and now reconsider my decision. Argh!

Let's go quilt,

Leah
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