I love cooking and baking, but I also love to sew. I could probably start another whole blog on some of the projects I’ve undertaken in the past few years, but, for now, I’ll stick with one at a time. Sewing can be so relaxing, and definitely gratifying when I see something in a store that I know I can make for 1/10th the price. Because my husband and I are still saving money for essential things and putting money into our house, we spend very little on non-essential, frivolous things. Aside from the generous holiday gifts from family, our only decorations for our house are things that I've made. I take great pride in the fact I can put little touches in our house to make it our 'home' but I don't have to buy out a department store or Kohl's to do so. My love for sewing started with a small, hand sewn lap quilt I made during a summer I interned in Indiana. As I got better, ventured into larger quilts with smaller patterns, and finally purchased my sewing machine - which is a godsend. I’ve made birthday quilts, wedding quilts and quilted pillow covers. Here’s a small idea of some of the projects I’ve completed.The first two photos are the fronts and backs of pillows I made for my brother’s Christmas gift. We are huge fans of Nintendo, and still have the old NES console with the cartridges. You know, the ones you have to blow into the bottom before you put it into the machine. Duck Hunt, Super Scope, Mario Bros. 1,2 and 3. All the classics. His favorite character of course is one that only appears in Super Mario Bros. 2 - a bird named “Tweeter” (this was also the name of our first parakeet as children), so I made sure to include that on the pillow. Each pillow has 361 blocks that are ¾” square when finished. Yes, in total, these pillows have nearly 1450 pieces.
Next is a pillow I made for my dad out of an oversized t-shirt he got when he was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at his college several years ago. He couldn’t wear the shirt so I made it into something useful that he could still enjoy using the colors of his alma mater.
The second quilt I ever made was pieced together little by little during my last few semesters at college. I learned the hard way about making sure you have everything you need when you start, as the large diamond center was designed after running out of enough fabric to continue the outer pattern throughout the rest of the quilt.
The last quilt is especially meaningful to me. Several years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer but thankfully has been cancer-free since her surgery and subsequent treatments. I found a great pink ribbon fabric, and though a quilt would be a great way to celebrate such great news.
I feel that quilts and food provide similar comforts. Quilts make you feel warm and cozy on the outside while food works its magic from the inside. I guess I just love providing comfort!
Recently, the opportunity arose to join the first ever National Food Blogger’s Bake Sale benefitting Share our Strength, an organization which strives to eliminate childhood hunger in the United States. I figured this would be a great time to try something new, especially considering it's for a such good cause. I don't know why, or how, but an idea immediately popped into my head – quilted sugar cookies. My plan revolved around coloring the dough itself and assembling the cookies one by one, essentially trading my quilting squares for dough. The more I researched though, the more I found plain square sugar cookies that were decorated with colored royal icing, which led me to think that this idea, while creative, was not pragmatic.
Not one to be discouraged easily, I decided to just try it. I made my trusty sugar cookie dough again, and this time divided it equally among several colors, including leaving some colorless. After chilling the dough for an hour or two, I pulled them out and attempted to roll each color a uniform thickness. Once they were rolled, the dough needed to chill again. It was tricky because the dough needs to be cold and firm to cut sharp cornered squares and triangles, but then it has to warm up after cutting so that a good bond is created between the seams of the different dough segments. Funny enough, I also enlisted the help of my cutting mat I use for fabrics because the grid on it ensured I’d get uniformly sized, straight pieces. I just placed my dough on parchment paper and then on the cutting mat.
After cutting a bunch of squares and triangles, I started assembly. If I had thought about it, I would have definitely only made one cookie at first, to make sure my idea was even possible. Halfway through my sixth cookie or so, my husband asked me if I knew they were going to work and maybe I should bake a tester. By that point, I had already invested too much time in the cookies that were already made, so I decided I’d soldier on and either succeed totally or fail miserably. It was too late to test. In the picture below, you can see what the cookies look like prior to baking. Once assembled, I used my bench scraper to ‘re-square’ the cookies and flatten out the edges so they looked like quilt blocks, and not quilt amorphous blobs. They looked good, but I still had no idea if they would hold together after baking.
In the end, I was able to make 17 cookies. You only see 16 because I got too excited to play around with one fresh out of the oven. Don’t do that. These cookies are super soft when they first come out of the oven. Be patient. Let them cool. Or else the seams split and it falls apart. (The broken one was the green and orange one in the center of the tray in the picture on the right) I say it just let me do ‘quality assurance’ for taste. While ‘pretty’ is a main goal for my food and baked goods, taste is just as important. Sure, they're attractive on a plate, but if they aren’t delicious, what's the point? If no one is going to eat it, you might as well just have a picture.
In the end, I think they turned out really well and I was proud to have them among the other goodies available for sale. The Chicago bake sale raised $885.00. Thanks again to Maris at In Good Taste for organizing and letting me be a part of something great.