All Night Long

When I got up this morning, I was sure I could hear Lionel Richie singing in my kitchen. When I checked in on the seed culture...whoa! Look at those bubbles!

Remember that it had barely risen above the level of the tape when I checked it yesterday morning.

This morning it had doubled in size.

 So with that, the seed culture is ready, and I can start the "barm". The barm is the actual starter for the loaf of Artos bread I'm going to make. I used 7 oz. of the seed culture and mixed it with 16 oz. of bread flour and 16 oz. of water. When it was all nicely distributed, I put it into an 8-cup glass measure.

The container needed to be at least twice as large as the barm, and so this should be fine. Also, I've added the tape to the level of the barm so that I can measure its progress.

Now, its job is to ferment at room temperature for "approximately 6 hours, or until the barm is bubbly." Given our cold temperatures, it might take longer. I'm told to expect the plastic wrap to "swell like a balloon." When I notice that, I am to release it and let the gas escape. Here's where it gets scary. According to Peter Reinhart (the book's author), I should try not to breathe the fumes as they escape because "the carbonic gas mixed with ethanol fumes will knock you across the room!" The exclamation point is his. Okay, then. Duly noted.

Speaking of the smell, you might recall that he told me the seed culture would not smell good, but that it would brighten toward the end of the process. Early on, I'd say it smelled kind of like beer. Toward the end of the process, it was smelling more like freshly baked bread. These descriptions are not exact, but the best I can come up with. 

When the barm is ready, I'm to replace the cover and refrigerate it overnight before using it. If all goes well, I'll be ready to bake some bread tomorrow, and I'll have a 3-day window to do so. From there, I can refresh it and keep it alive indefinitely. There's a lengthy explanation of this in the book, which I have not completely absorbed. I'll say more about that when the time comes. My plan is to keep it alive as I progress through the book so that I don't have to go through this whole week-long process again. I'm also told I can freeze it. All of this is a little fuzzy in my brain. I don't know about you, but I can only absorb so much information at a time, and I tend to disregard anything that isn't imminently useful.

So...that's kind of exciting. To me, anyway. Bread! Tomorrow! What better way to spend a (forecast to be) cold, icy, snowy day.

Also, I got a start quilting Gingerbread Square yesterday, and it's going very well. I quilted the snow on the ground with widely spaced echos of the embroidery lines.

Above ground, I quilted some pebbles and swirls to suggest falling snow and wind.

This took some time, but eventually, I had the whole center block quilted, and I'm happy to say that I did not suffer even one thread breakage. I'm using a white metallic thread on top, so that's saying something!

To break up the monotony of all that pebbling, I decided to quilt the adjacent sashings for each block as I go. For this, I'll be quilting insy-outsy lines. As I do both directions, I'll have intersecting circles. When I did the free motion quilting sampler for the Sit Down FMQ Facebook group, she called this motif "Orange Peels." I don't know if that's the actual name or her name. Maybe one of you knows.

When I'd gone all the way around in one direction, I was getting kind of tired, and so I stopped there. As I went, I was kind of holding my breath hoping that when I got all the way around the block, I'd be going in the right direction when I got back to where I started. I was. Phew!

So, Mike is home today. The snow and ice hasn't started yet, but the temperature outside is 27°F. which is pretty darned cold by our standards. Every weather source is predicting snow and freezing rain and encouraging folks to stay home if they can. We don't need any more encouragement than that. There's nothing but quilting on my agenda, and so that's what I'll be doing.

If the progress on the bread doesn't make you want to party, then head on over to my giveaway for Giveaway Day. There's some pretty spring fabric over there for one lucky winner.


Sunny and Cold

The sun is dazzling this morning, and the temperatures are turning colder. We're expecting more snow and ice beginning late tonight and into tomorrow morning. For now, it's very pretty outside.

Look far off into the distance and you can see Mt. St. Helens. We haven't been able to see it for a couple of weeks, at least.

The roads were clear, even though there was plenty of snow on the ground, and so I was able to get off the hill for lunch with Matthew. Here's how the driveway looked as I drove off.

Lunch was nice. Matthew is in a very good place, leaving his job this month and venturing off on a start-up company. It's scary for him, but he's hopeful and optimistic about his future. After lunch, I had a few errands to run. On the way home, I could see that the snow was limited to the very top of the hill where we live.

It's expected to fall to the valley floor overnight, which is never a good thing for the morning commute. Add in the expected ice, and it's pretty much a disaster. Fortunately, I'm not going anywhere, and Mike has the option of working from home.

One of my errands yesterday was to pick up a tree. We're only putting up a table top tree these days. We have some short strings of lights and decorations saved from previous Jackson & Perkins trees we've purchased. Mike put the lights on it last night, and I finished decorating it this morning.

Including time spent standing in line to pay for it, I think we spent about 20 minutes on this tree...my kind of tree. The rooms in our house are small, and we don't have little ones running around any more, unless you count the furry little ones. These days we keep our decorations pretty simple. There's the two dimensional tree hanging in the family room downstairs:

And this beady-eyed Santa hanging in the living room. It's probably just as well we don't have little ones running around. I'm afraid this Santa would put them off Christmas for good.

There are a few other little things sitting around too, but that's pretty much it for us and Christmas.

This morning I checked in on the seed culture. It has barely risen from yesterday. It needs to at least double in volume before I'm ready to move on to the barm.

There are bubbles, and so I know there is fermentation going on. I'll give this another day, and maybe two, to reach its full potential. There's no rush on this, and so I'm being patient and waiting it out.

Also this morning I finished stitching the little quilt, the dog's face, and some of the items in the suitcase on this Summer Holiday block. It's good to have the embroidery finished on the applique.

It can be hard to stitch through, and it gave me a sore knuckle yesterday. You can see how the edges of the dog applique are pretty badly frayed. I'll hit those with some Fray Check and it should be fine.

Today I'll start quilting the Gingerbread Square quilt. It's taken me a few days to work up my nerve, but I'm ready to go now. Wish me luck. Also, be sure to check out my giveaway post for Giveaway Day right here.

Giveaway Day: Check it Out!

It's here! Giveaway Day at Sew Mama Sew. It's cold outside, and so I'm gonna make this real simple for everybody. Here's what I'm giving away:

It's eight fat quarters of Junebug Fat Quarter Bundle by Dear Stella Fabrics. Don't you just love those spring-like colors? If we can't have spring, we can at least surround ourselves with the colors of spring, right?

So here's what you need to do to win:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite holiday cookie. Don't like cookies? Tell me your favorite holiday candy. Don't like candy? Tell me your favorite holiday bread. Don't like bread? Seriously...what are you eating? Tell me that.

2. Followers, brand new and still innocent or old and crusty, can gain a second chance to win by telling me how you follow. You can follow along in lots of different ways. Just check out my left side bar there for ideas.

I will ship internationally, and so this giveaway is open to all residents of Planet Earth. Giveaway will remain open until Sunday, December 11th at 5:00 p.m. PST. Winner announced Monday December 12th. Good luck!

Now head on back to Sew Mama Sew for some more good goodies.


Baking on a Snowy Day

Snow fell in great fat flakes for most of the day yesterday. Because of that, it was a little too wet for spending much time outside. A few times, I ventured out just a few feet to take some pictures. You can see the snow falling in most of these.

By day's end, we had about 4 inches of accumulation.

Smitty is very suspicious of the snow. He really wanted to go outside, but he wasn't happy about that cold white stuff.

He stayed right next to the house.

The catio collected snow on the fencing.

Here's a Sadie's eye view.

In the end it seemed a better plan to sit on a lap for snuggles and pets.

As for me, I baked some cinnamon swirl bread.

In other bread-baking news, I checked the seed starter this morning. It had doubled in size and was bubbling away.

So I went ahead with Phase 4 of the seed culture. That meant discarding half and then adding another cup of flour mixed with half cup of water. I moved the tape to measure its progress and then covered it up again. When it doubles in size again, I'll be ready to use it to start the barm.

A few of you asked about discarding half of the culture and whether I couldn't save it for a second loaf. Here's my (weak) understanding of this. I'm working now on a "seed culture" which is the starter for the "barm". The barm, in turn, is the starter for the bread. The seed culture is simply cultivating the wild yeast (obtained literally from thin air). It takes four phases before the culture contains enough active yeast to create the starter for the bread, the barm. Once the seed culture is ready, I'll start making the barm, which should take an additional 2-3 days. Then, and only then, will I be ready to bake an actual loaf of bread.

When the barm is finished it will amount to about 6 cups. From that, I'll need just one cup to make one loaf of bread. The remainder of the barm can be fed and maintained indefinitely (if I want to go to the effort), and it can be used again and again to make more loaves of bread. In fact, I'll be using the same barm to make a second and third loaf of celebration bread. Given that I'm planning to make all of the loaves in the book, I probably will maintain it for at least a while so that it won't be necessary to go through this whole process again. The author of the book, Peter Reinhart, points out that there are some strains of starter being used in San Francisco sourdough breads that have been maintained in continuous use for over 150 years. Amazing!

So, if that makes sense, you can see that the seed culture I'm making now isn't really useful for baking anything by itself. It's simply the starter for the starter. Also, it's such a small amount of flour mixed with water that the waste is negligible.

Aside from baking bread, I didn't do much of anything yesterday, although I could have. It occurs to me that I'm dragging my feet a little getting started on quilting Gingerbread Square.

It's a big quilt and I've put so much work into it, I'm a little nervous about quilting it. Having come to that realization, I'm probably as ready as I'll ever be. Someone posted a picture on Facebook of some beautiful quilting on the same quilt, and so I'm going to take some cues from her. Also, I have some ideas of my own about it. There's no time like the present, right?

As for the present, this is what it looks like outside this morning.

The outdoor cat seems pretty happy about the snow, doesn't he? His dragonfly is covered in the white stuff, and it looks as if he has a snowy mustache of his own.

Mike is about to leave for work, and he'll call to tell me how the roads are. Matthew and I are supposed to meet up for lunch today, but it's questionable whether I can make it off the hill. Mike has snow tires...I don't. So, depending on the roads, I'll either run errands today or get a start on quilting.


Winter is Here

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, 
that it kisses them so gently? 
And then it covers them up snug, you know, 
with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, 
"Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” 

~ Lewis Carroll~

We awakened to snow this morning. It was forecast to begin yesterday afternoon, but started at some point during the night. As I'm writing this, it has been falling for hours, in big fat flakes. Perhaps later, I'll get outside and take some pictures. It seems like a good day for sewing and baking, doesn't it?

On the bread-baking front, recall the seed culture from yesterday. It had risen more than 50%, as it was supposed to do.

Also, there were lots of bubbles, indicating the fermentation taking place...also a very good sign.

Yesterday's task was to discard half of what I had (or give it to someone else...any takers?), and then add another cup of flour mixed with half a cup of water. Here's how it looked when I pressed it back into the container.

I moved the tape to measure its rise...although, looking at this image, I could take better aim. 

After that, I went about my day's business. Mainly, I did housework and cooked up a Dutch oven dinner. It always makes the house smell so good, but it's usually a bit of a production. The only task completed in the sewing room was to get the first stitchery block ready for the "Summer Holiday" quilt. This quilt is the creation of Lynette Anderson. Her primitive drawings are so sweet.

I've made two of her quilts in the past...a doll quilt that I called "For the Birds". This one was swapped in a doll quilt swap.

And "A Kitten's Tale". This is one of Mike's favorite quilts, and it was one of my first embroidered quilts.

When I made those quilts, I became painfully aware of how difficult it is to embroider through fusible applique. Heat 'n Bond is my favorite fusible, but I decided to use Wonder Under this time around, thinking (incorrectly) that it's a softer fusible and it might be easier to stitch through. Well. It continues to be frustratingly difficult to remove the paper backing without having the fusible come off as well. It works better with tightly woven fabrics, like batiks. For the more loosely woven dog fabric on this quilt, it gave me fits. The dog frayed pretty badly at the edges. I think it will be fine, but I'm second guessing myself on the use of Wonder Under. (Yes, I know the pin trick...it still came off in crumb-sized pieces.)

This morning I got a start on the stitching. It's no easier to stitch through than Heat 'n Bond, but it was worth a try. The satin stitching is done, and that's a good thing.

Checking in on the seed culture, it was supposed to have doubled in volume today. Clearly, it has quite a way to go. The book advises me to wait another 24 hours before the final addition, and so I will. No rush.

Bubbles have appeared, and so it is fermenting. Possibly our colder temperatures have made the difference.

It might be a good day to bake some cinnamon swirl bread, because this falling snow puts me in a powerful mood for baking something.

When I last worked on the Summer Holiday quilt, I posted this picture to show you that the leaves on our maple tree were just beginning to turn red. It was the beginning of September.

It's a different world out there today, for sure.

This morning I read that cold air is headed over the North Pole from Siberia...something to do with the "Polar Vortex," which always sounds suspiciously like "Sharknado" to me. In any case, stay warm and dry out there, my friends. There's a cold wind coming.


Quilt Barn Trail

It's finished! My oldest UFO is finished! If you've been following along, then you know I started this quilt on May 18, 2011, as a project for an online class I took from the former Quilt University, now doing business as Academy of Quilting. My class, "Quilt your Favorite Photos" was taught by Betty Alofs. While perusing that website, I realized that the class is still available on demand.

It was actually the second quilt I started for the class. The first quilt was a little too complicated for me, a beginner at the time, and so I selected a different photo. The original quilt ended up as an "orphan block" donation to a woman who took a treadle sewing machine to the Burning Man festival and set up shop allowing folks to sew quilts. Isn't it interesting where our creations end up sometimes?

The pieces were all in place, and so yesterday's task was to quilt in the details. The batting was spray basted to the quilt top, but I didn't add the quilt back until almost all of the quilting was complete. I quilted siding onto all the structures.

Added some detail to the cupola. The roof was a corrugated metal roof, and after this picture was taken, I added some straight line quilting there.

Then I added more siding and "shingles" to the red structure, bricks to the chimney, and stitched in window panes.

Then, I added trunks and branches to the trees and after this picture was taken, added in some green for texture.

All that was left then was to quilt in some grass and the stems and leaves for the sunflowers. That serves the function of quilting, but it's really something on the order of free motion machine embroidery.

And then it was ready to have the quilt back added. My little cat was helping me the whole day.

For the quilt back, I selected this wheat fabric. It seemed like the best choice from my stash.

While the batting was adequately quilted to the top, I quilted in the suggestion of clouds in the sky to anchor the back in place as well.

And then it was ready for trimming and binding.

For the binding, I selected this branding iron fabric I picked up somewhere along the dusty trail...Wyoming, possibly? I looked back through some old blog posts trying to figure out where I'd purchased this, but couldn't find it.

This morning I was up bright and early to finish it. As a reminder, here is the original photograph:

And here is my finished quilt. Ta-Da!

It feels pretty darned good getting this one off my list of UFO's. It measures 13 x 19 inches. You wouldn't think a quilt so small could take 5 1/2 years to complete. I was going for a new world record. And that makes my hand quilting project, Mumm's the Word my longest running UFO. It was started in August of 2012.

At least I'm actually working on it, and not letting it sit on the back burner as the barn quilt did for so long.

There's just one tip I want to pass along to you today. Remember me whining about how hard it was to thread that 60/8 needle with the Invisifil thread? Well...smart friend of the blog Nancy E. suggested holding a little square of white cardboard behind my needle, and so I gave it a try. Here's how the needle looked (if you could actually get this close with your eye):

You can see the eye, but you can see how it also blends in with the foot at the back...also, note the blur. The camera was a little too close, but that's kind of how it looks to my eyes as well. So, enter a little slip of white paper and the eye becomes much easier to see.

Cool! And that worked great! Thanks for that suggestion, Nancy! It made a big difference.

Since I was up at 4:00 a.m., chomping at the bit to get at that quilt binding, I'm probably going to go back to bed. As for the rest of the day, I'll be adding more flour and water to my seed culture today. When I looked at it this morning, it had risen at least 50%. The top of the tape marks where it started yesterday.

Sorry for the blur...like I said, it was early. Also, there were bubbles visible, indicating that indeed, the starter is fermenting. That's exactly what it's supposed to do. I took a whiff of it since I was warned it would give off a bad smell. It wasn't too heinous, but less than appetizing. It's supposed to smell better within a day or two.

Also today, I'll be making up the first embroidered block for the Summer Holiday quilt...this one:

It's a combination of embroidery and machine applique.

There is snow in our forecast for this afternoon...it'll be the first snow of the season. Apparently, winter is here. It's a good day to stay inside and keep warm.