Thursday, 24 January 2013

Felt Badger Pattern

My first memory involving badgers is from 1984-1988 television adaptation of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The stop-motion animation series featured a dapper looking cast of animals and realistic miniature sets. I was just young enough at that time for this to be extremely creepy. The suit and ascot wearing Badger frightened me most of all. Maybe it's time for me to read the book again and get over it.

Click HERE to download the free pattern.

If cute badgers don't work for you, how about this creepy bloodthirsty version?
The pattern image can be resized to make anything from a tiny badger pin to a large badger pillow. A PDF of the pattern is also available on Craftsy HERE (PDFs can't be resized though).

This is where I would normally provide links to other cute badger patterns and tutorials that can be found online. This time, I'm using the space to raise awareness about the planned British badger cull instead.

Scientists have established a link between badgers and the spread of tuberculosis in dairy cows. (The exact nature of this link is still contested.) Since dairy farming is a billion dollar industry, the English government is getting ready to send out marksmen with bait to blast away most of its badger population. According to a recent BBC article on the subject: "The government's plan is based on the results of a nine-year trial which showed the spread of the disease could be slowed slightly if more than 70% of badgers in an area could be eradicated." (source) Hmmm.... slightly?

Needless to say, this is a controversial plan, and other options have been suggested. I encourage you to read this BBC Q&A and make up your own mind about what approach is best. In Wales, they are tackling the issue by vaccinating the badgers!

Image courtesy of Badger Trust

Image courtesy of Brian May's Save Me

Friday, 18 January 2013

Felt Owl Pattern

Owls are majestic creatures, and definitely among my favourite dinosaurs! Despite having a roommate who worked with them at a biological research station, I've never actually seen one up close. Luckily, the internets are full of owls, and given their recent popularity, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a few felt ones.

Click HERE to download the free pattern .

There are tons of owl patterns available out there, and I don't claim that mine is the best or fanciest. It is, however, simple, clear, and adaptable, which are things I look for in a pattern. The pattern image can be resized to make anything from a tiny owl pin to a large owl pillow. A PDF of the pattern is also available on Craftsy HERE (PDFs can't be resized though).

I know what you are thinking. "How do I accessorize my owl?" If you want to cute it up, you'll be happy to know that it has just enough space to hold a heart or flower between its wings. If you prefer to go the other way, I recommend giving it talons to hold its favourite mouse-a-licious snack.

Want more adorable and free owl project ideas?

Check out the tutorials and patterns for Toad Treasures' super easy stuffed owl, or Remodelaholic's huggable owl cushion.

The lovely Kim & Kris of DIY Dish have also put out a great webshow on making owl pincushions, and this HomeLife article teaches you How to sew a baby felt owl, which would also make a great pincushion!

Try stuffing your owl with catnip for a fun cat toy, like The Enchanted Rose has done, or fill a bunch with rice or beans to make a bean bag game. And have you seen these great owl purses made by Gingercake?

For next week's Felt Pattern Friday, I'll be sticking with the woodland theme, and sharing the pattern for a badger. Be sure to check it out!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

And Here my Free Motion Troubles Began

After spending the past month working on a wholecloth inspired lap quilt, I'm very happy to finally have something to show! It has certainly been slow going, but with the help of some excellent audiobooks I stuck with it despite the difficulties. I hope that by the end of this project I will have learned enough to "level up" and easily defeat these little devils in the future... but I think that's a tad optimistic. Learning tends to come in baby steps rather than giant leaps.

This quilt top is made entirely out of Just Color fabric in red. Just Color by Studio E is my go-to collection for fabrics that are visually interesting but still work like solids. All of the quilting is black, except for a hammer and sickle design accent in white thread. I am making this by request, for someone who spent a (very) long train ride to our place reading Lenin and wishing they'd brought a blanket.

I decided that I wanted to use a boxy motif to quilt this, which leads to the first little hiccup. When learning a new design, it takes a while to get comfortable with it, and the first little bit usually looks pretty terrible. Since I use the quadrant quilting method, the first area of the quilt that I work on is always the centre. It's also the most difficult area, because that's when the most fabric and pins are squished into the tiny little throat of the machine.

Predictably enough, the ugliest stitches ended up right in the middle. Here is a comparison so you can see what I mean. (Apologies for the dark photos, there is not much natural light in Edmonton in January!)

Luckily, I know from experience that the best way to make bad quilting look good is to have a large amount of it. That issue has taken care of itself. I continued to quilt, and just as I was at the three quarter mark, I turned it around to find this. Aack!

It might not be easy to see on the busy background fabric, but that's a big ol' fabric fold that somehow found its way into my stitching. Unacceptable. This one took patience to fix. I sat down with my seam ripper and a James S.A. Corey audiobook to rip out the whole area.

I'm pretty sure this happened because I didn't precisely follow my quadrant quilting plan for that area. Everything had been smooth enough to make me a tad overconfident until this point. To work the wrinkle out, I pinned the area thoroughly and left the quilt to hang for a couple of days. When I re-quilted that spot, I was more careful to keep the fabric under tension with my hands and that fixed the problem.

Of course, while I was checking  things out back there, I couldn't help but notice this:

Yes, that's the reverse side of the backing fabric sewn into the quilt where it doesn't belong. This has happened to me before, and it's easy to fix without pulling out any stitches. The secret is to cut the backing fabric very close to the stitch line, and then pull it out a little piece at a time. The fabric will break down into its original threads, which pass through the stitches easily enough. This time, though, I probably will rip out the stitching since it's just a small area.

All of these little issues didn't bother me compared to the one huge problem I had with this quilt: thread breaks. I'm pretty sure that I spent more time burying broken threads and rethreading my sewing machine than I actually spent quilting this project. Sometimes the thread broke just a few inches from my starting point!

I can think of two possible culprits for this. Either the weight of a quilt this size puts too much strain on my less-than-top-of-the-line machine, or the thread was too brittle. I was using a brand new roll of Aurifil 50WT black cotton thread. This is the first time I try their black thread, but I've been using their off-white for a while now without any problems. In fact, I didn't have a single thread break in the area of this quilt that I quilted in off-white. Perhaps the black is more brittle, or it had been sitting on the shelf at the quilt shop for too long?

I definitely need to resolve this issue before I take on my gigantic Groove Quilt. The best way to troubleshoot this is probably to quilt another blanket of the same size with different thread, as well as some smaller blocks using this black thread. Luckily that's just what I've got in mind for my next project. In the meantime, there are just a few details left to finish up before I'm ready to bind this quilt and show it off. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Felt Raccoon Pattern

Felt raccoon from pattern

Move over owls, woodland animals have taken over as the it thing. Deer, foxes, raccoons and skunks are going to be everywhere in 2013. With that in mind, I am kicking off Felt Pattern Friday with a raccoon pattern.

Click HERE to download the free pattern.

Felt raccoons from pattern

How can you use this pattern? It is provided as a high resolution image file. This means that it can be resized to make anything from a tiny raccoon pin to large raccoon pillow. A PDF of the pattern is also available on Craftsy HERE (PDFs can't be resized though).

What can you make with this? I made one of mine into a decorative ornament by cutting out a second piece of felt for the back, and adding a string for hanging. It would also make a really cute needle book cover, or an appliqué quilt block.

Felt raccoon ornament from pattern

Raccoon Week -
Image courtesy of
Want more adorable and free raccoon project ideas?

Check out the Raccoon Week round-up over at Imagine Gnats. This collection includes raccoon elbow patches - need I say more? How about clips and coffee cup cozies? Templates and instructions are provided for all the projects.

You can find the pattern to make a whole family of Rascally Raccoon finger puppets over at Dream a Little Bigger.

If a tiny stuffed raccoon is more your style, check out Crafter user Oops Creations' pattern available here.

I do feel a bit bad for declaring owls passé at the beginning of this post. They are gorgeous graceful predators who care nothing for our puny human trends. So next week on Felt Fabric Friday, owls!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Opinions from the Kitchen: The Year in Cakes

In my 2011 Cake Review, I raved about three of our favourites: a coffee cake, an apple torte, and a chocolate stout cake. The year 2012 only brought two cake making opportunities, but they are definitely worth talking about.

Lemon Pound Cake

Can you believe this baby contains six eggs, three cups of sugar, one cup of butter and one cup of sour cream? Despite that, it didn't taste overly rich or heavy.

I topped the cake with lemon glaze as suggested in the reviews, and it must have been a success because hints have been dropped that another one might be in order for this year's birthday.

There are a few things about which a potential baker should be warned before they take on this cake though. First of all, expect this to take a while. This cake spends more time in the oven than the time it takes to prepare/cook/glaze and clean up after a regular cake. Secondly, be ready to deal with a huge amount of batter. The recipe asks for a 16 cup pan, and I have no idea what size this actually is. I used my regular cake pan, and spent half an hour watching it rise, almost sure it was going to spill all over the oven. It didn't, but it did rise several inches out of the pan. This leads to my final piece of advice: grease and flour the pan really well, because it isn't easy to get out of there! This is especially true when you've used a pan that's too small and it expanded like a mushroom over the lip.

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting …and a good amount of ganache!

This cake was made using the Bakerella Just a Cake recipe. It is not, however, just a cake. This is the Paris Hilton of cakes. It should have a big black CENSORED bar across it.

A cake like this needs a very special occasion, it's not a regular dinner party kind of treat. I made it to celebrate my 30th birthday, which is certainly a big enough event to justify eating a dish made almost entirely out of icing.

I used less chocolate ganache than the recipe called for, healthier sour cream/almond icing, and cut out the chocolate chips in the middle. It was still one of the sweetest things I've ever eaten. It was absolutely delicious, but definitely not the kind of dessert that leaves you able to think about a second portion. I wish I'd taken the time to get a better picture before we cut it up, but my inner child, jumping up and down in anticipation, would have none of it.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Introducing Felt Pattern Friday

The internets love cute and geeky things made out of felt, and I happen to make a lot of them. Over the past year I've posted many projects made from felt, and in 2013 I'd like to take the time to share the patterns for making some of them. Giving crafters the means to make more adorable things can only make the world a better place. I will also share links to similar projects for inspiration.

The templates will be available in PNG format, which makes them easy to scale up or down. They can become small ornaments, large cushions, applique designs for a quilt, or anything else people think up. I know copyright can be a touchy subject, so the images will include a Creative Commons Attribution Licence statement to ensure people know they are free to share, copy, modify and make things to sell.

Felt Pattern Friday will officially be starting next week with a raccoon!

In the meantime, I invite you to check out some of the felt projects for which I've already posted instructions:

1. Felt Bear Mask         2. Felt TARDIS         3. Felt Android