Friday, August 28, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Bars

Have you ever tucked one of the kids into bed at night and then they remember to ask for a plate of food to be shared at a class party the very next morning? This has happened to me countless times but the other night, it was hubby who asked, after I had supposedly closed the kitchen for the night.  He and his team were moving into a new office space and as an informal celebration, each wife was sending in a plate of nibblies. Luckily I have a few quick and easy recipes in the files and these Chocolate Coconut Bars are always a crowd pleaser:
I'm pretty sure this recipe was in an old issue of the Woman's Weekly magazine. My nan cooked it a lot and passed it on to me, where its become a family favorite. Its loaded with coconut and it has that lovely cake like texture unlike some slice recipes which can be quite dense.
All you need are a few staple ingredients from the pantry and around 30 minutes of your time, to mix, bake and ice the slice and then its just a matter of letting it cool before you cut it into bars. They make an attractive plate to take and share or they are a great little treat to pop in the lunchboxes.
We enjoy those yummy crusts but for a more refined presentation, cut those off (and nibble on them) before you slice it into bars or small squares. They are so versatile and would look right at home on a cake plate for high tea or be a great addition to the outdoor family picnic.
I hope you and your family enjoy these Chocolate Coconut Bars. It is a wonderful, quick recipe to have in your file for those unexpected "catering emergencies" or for when you feel like baking something without too much fuss and mess.
To grab the recipe right click and save on the image below or to download the PDF file, just visit HERE.
Happy baking :)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday Tip #6

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
Basting a quilt, should be done carefully and leisurely to ensure the best outcome for your quilting. A poorly basted quilt, effects the overall quality of the finished product which can be heartbreaking after all the love and hours you have injected into your quilt top.
There are several ways to baste a quilt i.e. safety pins, hand basting with needle and thread or quilt basting spray. Personally I have never used the spray, therefore I cant comment; I prefer to pin baste when machine quilting or hand baste when hand quilting.
It is a time consuming job which requires a little extra preparation, so here are a few tips to help you:

  • Choose the best wadding for your quilt. Ideally a light to medium density wadding is best for quilts that will be hand quilted and a medium to high density wadding for quilts that will be machine quilted.
  • Wool wadding is perfect for hand quilting as the lanolin in the wool helps to slide your needle through more easily. Also choose a wadding which is smooth and even in texture, to avoid bumps interrupting your flow of stitches as you hand quilt.
  • I prefer to use either a 100% cotton or a wool/cotton blend wadding. I have been convinced to try others but I have been disappointed with the results.
  • If possible, lay out your wadding on a flat surface for a couple of days, to allow it to relax and to eliminate any wrinkles and creases.
  • It is easier to centre your quilt top, if the wadding and the quilt backing are cut to the exact same size: which should be approximately 3" to 5" larger than the quilt top, all around.
  • When you are ready to baste, lay out your well pressed backing fabric, right side down, on a hard surface, either a table or the floor. Once you have ensured everything is smooth and wrinkle free, tape the backing into position, with some masking tape. Lay the wadding on top and again, smooth out wrinkles and tape into position. Lay the well pressed quilt top, on top and centered, right side up.
  • If you are hand basting, choose a thread colour that stand outs, so you can remove it easily after the quilting is completed. I also use a double thread for added stability.
  • It is preferable to begin basting in the centre of the quilt and then work in sections; if everything is secured perfectly, do what works best for you.
  • Pin or hand stitch at regular intervals. Every 4"- 6" is a good guide, and ensure you smooth out any wrinkles as you go. 
  • Closing hundreds of pins can be painful on the hands but I believe there is a tool to assist in pin closure or you could try a steel knitting needle or crocheting hook (this also eliminates any punctures and accidental bleeding)
  • Once basting is complete, carefully roll your quilt to store until you are ready to quilt, avoiding adding any wrinkles to your carefully prepared quilt sandwich.
I enjoy every single quilting process, except basting. Even though it gets me one step closer to quilting and the end result, its something I dread and procrastinate over. I enlist the help of my daughter and we clear our schedules, pop on a DVD and baste away together. Find what works for you, to achieve the optimum results and to have a little fun while working on a "not so fun" task.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 43

This weeks stunning little block is Continental. I really love this one and I think it will be a beautiful addition to our quilts. This block is a little fiddly but the extra effort is worth it; the end result is gorgeous.
Ideally, when drafting this pattern, I would have taken the cutting measurements to the nearest 1/16", but I know this scares a lot of people, so I had to improvise and give you another option :)
There will be a few pieces which are cut slightly larger than required and you will need to trim them down, once they are sewn. Pay close attention when trimming the units; keep them centered and trim evenly as I don't want you losing any seam allowances etc. or having things not match up properly. Ensure you refer to the finished measurements, marked in bold, as you work through the pattern.
It's only a "smidgen" to be trimmed and this was the simplest way for me to include this block in our quilts. If you have any problems at all, email me ( and I will try and help you out.
To download this weeks free pattern, just visit HERE.
Happy sewing :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Free September 2015 Calendar

September is right around the corner and its a welcome respite for us in the Southern Hemisphere. Our days will begin to lengthen, the sun will be warmer, the gardens will flourish and our winter hibernation will come to an end as we enjoy the beauty of Spring. It's also time for your free September calendar:
This months featured design is my Garden Party tablecloth. I love this design so much; its a beautiful combination of lovely stitchery and simple piecing. Its the perfect accompaniment for outdoor entertaining or for that quiet cup of coffee (and a good book) in your own garden.
My sample of this design, was recently returned to me, so I'm looking forward to using this one during the Spring months. The Dresden Plate centre is quick and easy to piece and you can use a great tutorial HERE, to help. There is quite a bit of stitching but I think it frames the Dresden so well and I adore those pretty little parasols :)
The pinwheel border adds to the beauty of this design and then its all finished off with a plain border, so you are able to showcase one of your favorite larger prints.
From today until the end of September, PDF patterns of Garden Party will be available at the discounted price of $5.95, in my store HERE.
To download and print your free September Calendar, just visit HERE.
I hope September is another fantastic month for you and your family and that you have the time to relax and enjoy your very own garden party, while embracing everything the new season has to offer :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday Tip #5

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
It is very important to obtain a consistent 1/4" seam when piecing blocks/units for quilting. Ideally, you want to avoid losing points or having units finish too small or too large, which will not match up when you finalize your block or quilts.
The 1/4" seam allowance, ensures the least amount of bulk on the back of the quilt, keeping everything nice and flat and makes quilting a lot easier. It is also the standard measurement designers use in their patterns to achieve the optimum results.
Here's a few tips to help you achieve and maintain, that perfect 1/4" seam:

  • Ensure your machine is fitted with a 1/4" pressure foot and check its accuracy regularly. Most new machines come with this foot included but if not, it is definitely worth the investment.
  • To check its accuracy, slide your ruler under the pressure foot so that the needle is in the centre of the 1/4" line; the edge of the ruler to the right of the needle. Turn the wheel of your machine until the needle sits on the ruler and then lower your presser foot. The edge of the foot, should match the edge of the ruler.
  • Using the same process above, mark the 1/4" seam allowance with masking or washi tape by positioning the tape against the ruler. Use a few pieces of tape to form a ridge for your fabric to butt up against.
  • To check consistency, cut 3 x 1 1/2" x 5" strips and sew them together along the long edges. Press seams and then check the size of the centre strip; it should measure 1" exactly and consistently.
  • If you are still concerned, it is a good idea to have your service agent reposition the needle to the default setting.
  • When sewing smaller pieces, I like to mark the 1/4" sewing line using my clear seam guide, to ensure consistency. I also use this method when hand piecing.
Once you have prepared for and mastered the 1/4" seam, your block units will have sharp points and crisp corners and everything will fit together perfectly when its time to assemble the block or quilt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 42

This weeks block is the super sweet Hovering Hawks. There are a few versions of this block and it is believed to symbolise foraging soldiers, from both sides, during the American Civil War. Hawks are renowned for their alertness and excellent eyesight, and they prey on small birds and rodents for their survival. During the war, soldiers were referred to as "spoonhawks" as they raided towns and plantations, searching for food and hidden/buried valuables.
Despite its history, it is a very pretty block and I really wanted to include this one in our quilts. I hope you love it as much as I do.
To download this weeks free block pattern, just visit HERE.
Happy sewing :)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday Tip #4

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
Pressing is a very important part of quilting,  In my experience, choosing an iron doesn't need to be expensive and you really don't require one, with any of those super fancy features. I recently purchased a new cordless iron, thinking it would make life easier ........sadly it did not; it was more of a hindrance than a help. It kept switching itself off, it took forever to heat up and you had to lay it back in its cradle or it constantly beeped at me.  After a few days, I went back to a basic plug in/always ready when you are, steam iron with a stainless steel plate and I love it :)
There's a lot of debate about pressing seams but here's a few things to keep in mind:

  • Where possible press your seams to the side, usually towards the dark fabric, which creates a "loft". This makes matching seams so much easier as they butt against each other and fit snugly together, like jigsaw pieces.
  • When several seams intersect, such as a pinwheel block, press your seam open. This alleviates the bulk and there wont be a "bump" when your project has been quilted. 
  • If you opt to hand quilt your project, pressing all the seams open keeps everything nice and flat and makes "rocking" the needle through, so much easier.
  • When you are pressing units or rows, press seams in alternate directions to assist in matching the seams accurately.
  • It is possible to purchase a pressing roller, so you can press your seams whilst sewing but I prefer to sew multiple units and move between the machine and the ironing table. This also helps me stretch and move around during long bouts at the machine and hey, it counts as exercise, right? :)
  • Remember to press not glide, when using your iron. Ensure you lift your iron and place it down on each new area, to avoid stretching and distorting the fabric.
  • Maintain you iron regularly to avoid adding water stains or those pesky black marks (from buildup) to your finished projects.
I include pressing directions in my patterns but this may not always be the best option for you, so use them as a guide and do what works best :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 41

This weeks gorgeous block is Diamond Star. This is such a pretty block and the HST's and Flying Geese units, makes it quick and easy to sew.
I used a lovely solid red fabric, to emphasize the star points and to add a bit of dramatic to the block. It also makes that gorgeous pink diamond, really pop. Have a play around with colours on this one; I'll be interested to see your interpretations of this pattern.
I have seen some gorgeous Chatelaine blocks on Instagram #chatelainebow, so far, so don't forget to add yours to the feed. They do inspire others and I love to see these quilts coming together. If you prefer, you could send me some pictures to share here on the blog.
To download this weeks free block pattern, just visit HERE.
Happy sewing :)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Spinach and Feta Bread

A few years ago, I discovered a yummy Spinach and Feta Bread recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Since then I have made it countless times and I have modified it to suit my families tastes, so I thought I would share my adapted recipe, for you to try over the weekend:
This bread is super delicious and too good to wait for, so we enjoy eating it straight from the oven, smothered in butter. Its a lovely accompaniment to homemade soups and its perfect to slice and butter and then pop in the lunchboxes, as an alternate to sandwiches.
Its loaded with spinach, feta, onion, sun dried tomatoes and garlic and its a great recipe to adapt to the ingredients in your fridge.  I occasionally swap the spinach and onion for kale and leek; disguising vegetables that I love, but my family doesn't necessarily enjoy.
During winter, this bread is fantastic for breakfast and I prefer to top mine with a lovely poached egg; its just pure deliciousness on a plate and it keeps me feeling full and motoring along until lunch. Toast the bread, if you wish and maybe you could serve it with some crispy bacon as an added treat.
To download and print my recipe for Spinach and Feta Bread, just visit HERE.
I hope your family enjoys this delicious bread as much as my family does.
Happy baking :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thursday Tip #3

{Thursday Tip: A regular weekly feature sharing my quilting tips. There are no rules in quilting, these are just the things that work for me and might help you. There are no quilt police, so use them as a guide; no ones watching :) There is no wrong way to do anything......just relax, experiment, learn, create and have fun. }
There are many different rotary cutters on the market, so buy the best one you can afford. I have one for fabric cutting (my beloved KAI) and one for paper cutting and paper piecing. Once my fabric blade dulls, I transfer it to the paper cutter until its completely blunt.
Here's a few tips for caring for your cutters:
  • After every use, wipe away any lint, dust or stray cottons to avoid buildup and eliminate any effects on its cutting performance.
  • Wipe a small smear of machine oil, on the blade, to keep the blade turning freely.
  • Ensure that the blade is covered, at all times, when it is not in use.
  • Replace blades carefully and regularly for more efficient cutting and to avoid scarring your cutting mat.
  • After replacing blades, ensure the screw is not screwed too tightly or too loosely, so the blade rolls freely. 
  • Only use a specified cutting mat when using your rotary cutter.
  • Be careful not to scrape the blade against rulers and never cut through pins.
  • For proper blade disposal, place the blunt blade in the plastic cover that comes with the new blades packaging before placing it in the bin.
Rotary cutters are the most efficient and accurate way to cut fabric. They are a valuable tool to have and use, so look after them well and they will assist in you in years of accurate and easy cutting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Chatelaine- Free BOW Sampler Quilt Block 40

This weeks block is the lovely Broken Dishes. There are a few blocks with this name and each of them are equally as beautiful, but this is the version I prefer. It is such a classic block and when researching its history I found a few interesting theories, as to what this block represents:

  • Broken pieces of pottery called potsherds that have been uncovered in archaeological sites are a clear indication of the art history or culture of that time.
  • Broken dishes, along with other items such as lamps and tools, were used by African American slaves as traditional grave decorations, representing the practical continuum between life and death.
  • As slaves were forbidden to read or write, quilt blocks were used as a code and the Broken Dishes block represented a future landmark.
  • The pioneers were great at recycling and broken dishes were used in the bottom of planter pots, before the soil was added, to aid in proper drainage. 
  • And of course, broken dishes (or pottery) are synonymous with those beautiful mosaic tiles, planters, table tops etc. that we find everywhere.
Regardless of the history, this is such a pretty block and it will look lovely in our quilts :)
To download this weeks free pattern, just visit HERE.
Happy sewing :)
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