Happy Monday (or as we call it, the day after Breaking Bad is on)! If you’re a fan, you know the season premiere of the very last season was last night. And if it isn’t obvious, Aa and I are big fans. Yes, it’s pretty violent. But I still think the pilot episode of this show is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on tv. But anyway, I digress. So last night we had a little season premiere party with a handful of good and similarly obsessed friends. In years past we’ve had blue rock candy to celebrate which is fun (if you haven’t seen the show, here’s a mini plot with no spoilers: High School science teacher gets cancer, starts cooking meth to make money for his family, makes super pure and desirable meth which happens to be distinctively blue. Crazy stuff happens.) So blue rock candy looks just like the blue meth. But this year when Aa went to the candy store in the loop where we’ve bought it before he was greeted with this: Womp, womp! So it was back to the drawing board. Which is when Aa came up with the idea for blue jello shots. I don’t usually eat jello (gelatin is not vegetarian) but we figured it would be fun. (Ok, if I’m being honest, he had to talk me into it). I did some googling and we read the basic recipe for Jello Jigglers and here’s what we came up with:
Spray your flat containers with Pam. We used Pyrex storage containers. Pour the Jello powder in a bowl, add the boiling water and whisk until it is all dissolved. Add the cold booze. Pour into flat containers.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
(It’s our “lab”!)
When the Jello is firm, chop it up into jagged pieces and serve. (In the show, when the meth is finished “cooking” it comes out in large flat trays sort of like this and they chop it up into little jagged pieces.)
You know how there are certain ages in life where it seems like you are surrounded by big life events? Like when you’re in your mid to late twenties and lot of people you know are getting married? My brother is in this category and I think last summer, he and his girlfriend went to something like 9 weddings (can you even imagine?!). And I think she was in three or four of them! (The bridesmaid dress horrors! I’m having nightmares just thinking about it!)
But now that I’m a little older (ahem, early 30’s…how did that happen?!) I’m at the stage where everyone I know is having babies. In particular my close group of mom friends have all been pregnant within the last year. And at this point they’re all on baby #2. These are special friends of mine who I met living in the building, two of them have since moved, one close, one far. And they literally saved me from losing my mind. I know that sounds melodramatic but no one tells you that being a stay-at-home mom can be completely lonely. And finding other moms to hang out with is kind of like dating. There’s the awkward phase where you don’t really know each other but you chit chat because you’re in the same storytime or something. Then there’s the day when you have to ask the other mom’s name because you’ve only known her for several months as “Sally’s mom”. And then if you really get along you have to ask for their phone number and try and set up a “playdate.” It’s totally like dating only maybe even harder because you’re also wrangling a toddler at the same time and no one pulls out your chair or buys you dinner.
Anyway, around the time that O was a year and half old, I started to get a little bored and a little lonely for adult conversation. So AA and I forced ourselves to go to a party our building was having for the kids for Valentine’s Day. I HATE this kind of thing where you’re forced to talk to people you’ve never met before. I’m completely terrible at it. But luckily I happened to sit down next to, perhaps the nicest person ever, E, and discovered that her son also had peanut allergy (Instant converstation starter! Let’s trade horrible allergy stories! ). She introduced me to a few of the other moms who were home all day (or most of the day) in our building and then next thing I knew, I had a group of four amazing women to hang out with regularly. I regularly count my blessing that I have them in my life. Do you have people like that?
Anyway, one of them just had a baby about a month and half ago, one is due in a couple weeks and another is due at the end of September. For a second baby, most people don’t have a big baby shower but we have had a little “sprinkle” for these new babies and it’s been a lot of fun. We all go in on one big gift that we know they actually need (like a rumble seat for their stroller or something) but if you know me, you know I am genetically compelled to make presents. I just can’t not do it. I really can’t.
I have done all kinds of gifts in the past, knitted blankets (take forever!) fancy quilts, sweaters, hats etc. But I don’t have quite as much free time as I used to and so I recently started making these Super Easy Baby Shower Quilts. You might call them cheater quilts because they’re made from one single piece of fabric for each side but I won’t. I sewed up two of these in one Saturday (while AA kindly supervised O) and they turned out really cute but are still a little nicer than a flannel receiving blanket or something. And the batting makes them great for those early months when newborns need something to lay on all the time.
Super Easy Baby Shower Quilt
1 yard of quilting fabric for the front
1 yard of flannel fabric for the back
1 package of natural cotton quilt batting (craft size is ok)
1/4 yard of quilting fabric for the binding
1. First you cut your yard of front fabric into a square. Most quilting fabric is 44″ wide and if you bought a yard, it will be 44″ x 36″. Cut it to 36″ x “36”. (You can do this at any size, it really doesn’t matter) This will be the finished size of your quilt.
2. Cut the batting and backing fabric a few inches wider than the front fabric, this can be rough.
3. Lay the front fabric right sidedownon your table. Lay the batting on top. And then lay the backing fabric right side up on top of that. The batting and backing will overhang the front, that’s ok.
4. Turn the “quilt sandwich” over so the front fabric is up and, making sure the fabric and batting is really really smooth, safety pin the layers together. This is called “basting”.
5. Now you can quilt. It can be helpful to either follow some part of the pattern of your fabric or draw your quilting lines on ahead of time with a disappearing fabric pen. For this quilt, I followed some big square in the pattern. If you have a walking foot for your sewing machine, use it.
6. Lay your quilted quilt out on a table and carefully trim away the extra batting and backing fabric.
7. Now, it’s time to bind your quilt. First cut strips of the binding fabric. (You can also totally use pre-made binding if you want). I cut mine 2.5″ wide. You need as many inches of binding as the length of the perimeter of your quilt. In our case that’s 36″ x 4 plus a few extra inches (approx. 150″).
8. When it come to binding the quilt, I was going to show you all the steps here, but honestly, this tutorial from Oh, Fransson is much better than I could explain and it’s my go-to method. So follow that, up until you get to the hand-stitching part. When it’s time to fold your binding back over to the front of the quilt, I prefer an invisible ladder stitch as opposed to a whip stitch like she shows.
9. When you’re done binding your quilt, run it through the washer and dryer so it’s cozy and crinkly and you’re done!
I also made this one for my friend who’s having a boy:
They were a big hit at our surprise baby “sprinkle” last night. What’s your go to baby shower gift?
We just got back from an entire week of vacation (awesome!) in Wisconsin with my family. There was a lot of this:
We were gone for six days and I made it through five books. (Have I mentioned I like to read…ALOT? Well, I do, I really really do.) But I didn’t do all of my reading alone:
Apparently I’ve passed on my love of books! We also took a little break and took advantage of free babysitting and went to a drive-in movie which was really really fun. We saw Despicable Me 2 which honestly wasn’t as good as the first one, but the experience was so great. I don’t think I’ve been to a drive-in since I was a kid and I just do not understand why there aren’t more of them! There were kids running around in their jammies, delicious snacks, and you get to sit in your own comfy car. It’s perfect!
We also appreciated some art:
And we made some of our own:
It was really relaxing and fun but the one thing we didn’t plan for was that we basically had no internet at all for the entire week. It’s a blessing in disguise for AA because if he’s available by blackberry, he’ll be getting emails all night and day that require responses. But I felt unexpectedly happy about it too. It takes a break to realize how much longer a day feels when you’re not spending a good part of it getting sucked into a computer or phone (she says while staring at her computer typing a blog). It was so nice to have a break. When I worked in architecture I was at a computer all day, now with Little Red Window Design, I spend a big chunk of my free time online or doing photoshop work. Did I instead spend a lot of that time with my nose in a book? yes! But I wasn’t wasting my time on facebook or instagram (you know, those time sucks we all love?), I was using my imagination! (And boy you don’t realize how often you google things to find out definitions or answers to questions until you can’t! I have to rely on my brain to remember things? huh?!) Anyway, there’s no point to all this besides just a reminder to myself to turn off the laptop, put away the phone and look around a little bit more. Time slows down in a good way when you do that.
Ok, maybe high rise farming is a silly title. High Rise Gardening? Urban Tomatoes? Anyway, when I was growing up my dad always grew something in the summer. He’s had always had plants and flowers, sometimes vegetables. And when I was really little, at our old house, we even had raspberries. I think those were less “gardened” and more “growing wild and out of control” (But they were so delicious!) But the most memorable crop was the year or two he grew mobile tomatoes.
My parents’ house is in a pretty wooded neighborhood with a lot of shade which doesn’t really lead to a great garden, so my dad, always thinking outside the box, grew his tomatoes in containers (pun totally intended…box…containers…get it?!). But because the sunniest place in their yard is at the end of the driveway, he put that container of tomato plants in our old little red wagon and EVERY DAY he wheeled it to he end of the driveway and EVERY EVENING, he rolled it back into the garage so no one would steal it. That’s dedication!
We’ve lived in the city for about 7 years now and I’ve tried growing things with varying degrees of success on tiny balconies never lower than the 10th floor. Dill was a disaster (too windy for a delicate plant), marigolds always do well (hearty and strong), and climbing vines look cool entwined through the railings but they are really a pain to clean up in the fall. But I’m pretty sure I’ve had tomatoes every year. They always just kind of did ok. Until we discovered Earth Box. One of the big problems we had is that being up so high, it can be pretty windy. And wind dried out the soil really quickly. But Earth Boxes have a water reservoir underneath that you fill and then the roots and soil suck up water from below as needed. They’re awesome (they have no idea I’m saying this, they just really are awesome). There are some intense tutorials on the internet to build your own but in the end this was worth paying for. I mean literally all the work required for this garden was to plant the baby plants and add water every other day or so. (And Aa does that so all I had to do was plant the plants and “harvest” things!) In the middle of the city we never have to deal with bugs or rabbits or weeds or any of the other things that make gardening labor intensive. It’s pretty great.
Anyway, what made me think about this is that I just harvested our first tomatoes this year! I got an heirloom “patio” variety and they’re doing great!
We actually have a lot more growing and it’s looking like this will be most we’ve ever grown in a summer. (I need tomato recipes! Help!)
I also have tons of basil and oregano and look at this!
A tiny bell pepper! Isn’t it so cute?
Unfortunately, in one of the twists you have to expect from high rise living, we just got a notice in the mail that the building is planning repair work to the balconies starting at the end of August and we are required to move EVERYTHING inside. Think I can bribe the building manager with tomatoes and fresh basil…?
I’d say 90% of the time, if given a choice about dessert, I go with chocolate. Unless there are strawberries. And Strawberry Shortcake is my kriptonite. (The dessert, not the character. Although I did LOVE Strawberry Shortcake the character when I was little. I had a little Strawberry Shortcake action figure that actually smelled like strawberries. She was awesome! I’m sure if you grew up in the 80’s you know what I’m talking about!) Anyway, most of all I a love shortcake that’s biscuit-y not crunchy or cake-y. When people take a slab of flavorless angel food cake, put strawberries on top and call THAT strawberry shortcake, I cringe. That is so not! It’s wrong! Clearly those people don’t know what they’re missing!
It is a little late in the summer for strawberries, to be honest, but we got some with our grocery delivery that weren’t too bad and we’ve been reading ALOT of The Poky Little Puppy in which four adorable puppies eat strawberry shortcake for dessert. (maybe rice pudding and chocolate custard should be next?) And actually, strawberry shortcake is a great way to use strawberries that maybe aren’t quite perfect. I promise, you’ll like it.
makes 4 servings
1 lb. of clean strawberries
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tb sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tb milk
4 Tb melted butter
Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
1. Wash your strawberries.
2. Cut the strawberries in to small pieces and put them in a bowl with a lid.
3. Sprinkle with about a Tablespoon of sugar (more if your berries are tart). Stir and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
5. In a mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
6. Melt the butter.
7. Add the melted butter and the milk to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
8. Put the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet divided into four equal biscuits.
9. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits liberally with turbinado sugar.
10. Bake for 11-13 minutes until the tops just start to brown.
11. The hard part: wait until the biscuits are cool enough to touch (at least 15-20 minutes).
12. Split a biscuit in half across and set the top aside.
13. Add strawberries and their juice on top of the biscuit bottom.
14. Add whipped cream. (Yes! I used whipped cream from a can! The horror!)
Until about a year and half ago, we had two wonderful cats. (Trust me this story is going somewhere…) We got them from a shelter when we first moved to Chicago when they were six weeks old and completely adorable.
So cute, right?!
They were brother and sister and we named them Yuko (left) and Hiro (right) after some friends we met in Japan and we totally loved them like children. (So of course you can see where this is going…) Overall they were really great cats, although Yuko was amazingly smart and used it to her advantage. This cat could literally open fully closed doors. She could also open dresser drawers and liked to climb inside and nap on top of our clothes. She accomplished this by leaping up, hooking her paws over the top of the drawer and leaning back and letting her chubby belly weight open the drawer. Then she’d scramble up into the drawer and get cat hair all over everything. It drove us nuts! (The silver lining was that we got pretty accomplished at baby-proofing way before we ever had a baby!)
Unfortunately after O was born we found out he has asthma and allergies–serious enough that he spent the night in the hospital for breathing problems at nine months. And when we saw an allergist when he was about a year, the doctor said, “You have no choice, the cats have to go.” It was truly heartbreaking but in the end, in the best possible scenario, they went to live with some really great friends of ours (I literally called them the WEEK BEFORE THEIR WEDDING to ask if they would take the cats and they didn’t hesitate, just said yes.) And now they are adored and spoiled and so happy. So in the end, we miss them terribly but it’s ok. (And we can still visit!)
Anyway, the dresser Yuko climbed into most often was an Ikea Tovik dresser I got when I was in grad school. It looked like this originally except that it had five drawers.
I had painted it a dark eggplant color but after several years of a chubby cat climbing up and down the front it was pretty much ruined. I don’t have a picture of it but trust me, it wasn’t pretty–lots of deep scratches and peeling paint. When O moved from his tiny nursery into his big boy room I decided to drag this dresser out of a closet where it was holding sheets and towels and turn it into his big boy dresser. I searched Pinterest and found some inspiration. I liked this a lot:
So I sanded and scraped and sanded some more. (Yes, I do this inside my condo, I just vacuum a lot. And it helps that we have flooring that I’m not particularly worried about). And then I gave it a couple coats of primer and then a few more coats of a dark grey paint with a small roller. And then I went to town with a white paint pen from Michaels. Well, it took three or four paint pens actually. And I finished off with a couple coats of poly (because toddlers aren’t known for being gentle).
In the end I’m totally happy with the result and I hope the hand-drawing is playful enough to work for a toddler’s room but with a sophisticated pattern that should continue to work as he gets older.
(I have to apologize for the photos, O’s room is small and actually doesn’t have any windows at all which makes light a BIG challenge! What do you even do in that situation? Maybe a more dedicated blogger would move the dresser to a room with a window? Sorry, I have a toddler, I don’t have time for things like that! Hopefully you can forgive me!)
Over the weekend, my friend Rebecca from Homemaker’s Habitat posted a picture on facebook of her family picking blueberries at a local farm. O and I are huge blueberry fans and finding a food related activity that’s safe for us to do is pretty rare, so on Sunday we packed up the car and drove about 45 minutes to northern Indiana to the blueberry farm she recommended. I think I can honestly say I have never seen blueberries growing in nature. I guess I thought they grew on big bushes or shrubs or something but the plants were small, about 2 1/2 – 3 ft tall and planted in rows.
The bushes were the perfect height for O and he LOVED “the blueberry farm”. It turned out to be the perfect activity for an almost three year old. He did a great job of holding his own bucket and only picking the berries that were blue. He was so proud of the growing pile in his bucket and was convinced that any berries that fell on the ground were, “for the cows to eat” (I guess because we were on a farm?). By the time we finished at about 10, it was pretty hot and there was no shade to speak of so this wasn’t an all day activity, but we went home with a little over 5 lbs. of blueberries.
Then when we came home I had to figure out what to do with all those blueberries. And they weren’t just regular blueberries, these are by far the sweetest, freshest blueberries I have ever had. We ate almost half of them just plain. Of course, for the rest, I first thought about blueberry muffins. I looooove blueberry muffins. But then I knew if I had a million blueberry muffins in the house, I would eat a million blueberry muffins. Which would be bad. So instead I went for individual blueberry crumbles. Why are individual sized foods so much more fun than regular sized? Because you don’t have to share? I appreciate the portion control (but not the extra dishes!) so we used small 4 inch ramekins and they were delicious.
makes 2 individual crumbles
2 1/2 cups of clean blueberries
2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 c. of old fashioned oats
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/8 tsp of salt
4 Tb melted butter
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and wash your blueberries.
Sprinkle the cornstarch over the blueberries, add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir. (My blueberries were super sweet, if yours are more tart, add a little honey or sugar.)
Put the blueberry, cornstarch mixture in two small oven safe ramekins.
In another bowl, mix the oats, flour, salt, and brown sugar together.
Add the melted butter.
Mix the butter into the dry ingredients until combined and it forms large clumps. This is way easier with your hands.
Divide the crumble topping in half and cover the blueberries. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the berries are bubbling and the top is starting to brown. Let it cool until you can handle the ramekins.
This would be amazing with some vanilla ice cream but we didn’t have any so I topped it with a dollop of greek yogurt mixed with honey. YUM!
And here’s what it looked like five minutes later!
YUM! What’s your favorite way to eat blueberries? Has anyone else gone picking this summer?
When it comes to crafting, I never shy away from a challenge. I have tried pretty much every craft out there. Ok, not stained glass, I haven’t tried that. (It’s sharp and scary!) But, Ukranian egg decorating using melted wax? Yep. Heat embossing? Sure! DIY lip gloss. No big deal! So when I noticed that at our friends’ houses, O always headed straight for the play kitchens, I decided I should make him one. And the internet is full of great play kitchens. I briefly thought I should maybe just buy him one but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? (Plus we had some old Ikea nightstands in our bedroom that I secretly hated and this was a PERFECT excuse to exchange them for something else! Shhh, don’t tell AA!) Overall it took about a month with an hour here and an hour there, mostly on the weekends, and was probably one of the most fun projects I’ve done in a long time.
Here’s what I started with:
I think it was part of the Aneboda family (don’t you just love Ikea names?!). This was “birch” veneer and although pretty sturdy it was tall and thin instead of short and wide. Unfortunately I did this last fall so I don’t have picture of the process but basically, first I turned it sideways, then took off the legs and screwed them to the side. Then I removed the drawer and its tracks, moved the shelf and screwed it into place so that it was now vertical. Then I added a “backsplash”, installed the sink, added a piece across the front where the knobs go, and finally, used a wooden panel from the oil painting department of Michaels with a hole cut in the middle as the oven door. And then I, patched, sanded, and primed and primed and primed (that “birch” is tough to cover!) and painted and added knobs etc. Here’s the result!
I got the letter hooks at Michaels in the dollar section and painted them to match so O has a place to hang his pots and pans.
The “burners” are round wooden plaques from the craft store that I painted and then attached to the top from underneath.
The sink knobs were cabinet pulls from Home Depot and I just drilled the hole for them a little big so they would spin. The faucet is an upside-down letter J from the paper mache section of the craft store. I would have LOVED to use a real faucet but I didn’t manage to find an old one that would work. But so far this is just fine. And the sink was once our cats’ water dish, it happened to be the perfect size and depth for this!
The oven door opens out and has a handle that keeps it from crashing into the floor and the stovetop knobs were just cheap wooden knobs from Home Depot that I painted and put through the front.
Inside the oven I used the rack from an old toaster oven and put in two small pieces of wood on either side so it actually pulls in and out just like a real oven! (Cleaning that old toaster oven rack was a project in itself! Let me tell you, a lot of those Pinterest tips on cleaning your oven with things like cream of tartar? They don’t work. Trust me.)
I don’t have an accurate tally but I think with coupons and sales, the cost came in somewhere around $30 (I already had primer and paint). Not bad, right?
We put it out Christmas morning and it has been a big hit ever since!
I still have one more of these horrible nightstands taking up space in my spare room. Should it just be more counter space? A fridge? Microwave? What do you think?
So to my eternal sadness, I am not Italian at all. Not even a tiny little bit. But I loooove pasta. I mean, who doesn’t really? (One of the saddest times of my life was then I did the South Beach diet before my wedding and couldn’t eat it. It was rough.) I have many good pasta recipes but this is the one my husband and toddler both inhale. In fact, recently AA said it was one of his favorite things I cook. And if you ignore all the no-carb people (all things in moderation!), it’s pretty healthy (lots of colorful veggies!)
I don’t know about you, but I have kind of a love/hate relationship with eggplant. As a vegetarian I’ve had a lot of bad eggplant wedding dishes and greasy eggplant parmesan. It can be rubbery or flavorless or just not good. Eventually I discovered it’s best roasted (or grilled) until it almost dissolves and gets sweet. You could add any other veggies you happen to have on hand, it’s a flexible recipe. Bell peppers or a dark leafy green like kale would be good. Or mushrooms if you like that sort of thing (not me!). It’s a great way to deal with a CSA box that’s a little too full and an excellent way to get veggies into kids!
Roasted Eggplant Pasta 1 large or three small eggplants
3 tomatoes (4-5 Roma tomatoes or a container of cherry tomatoes would also work)
1 large onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 box of whole wheat pasta
grated Parmesan cheese
a handful of fresh basil
1. Preheat your oven to 375, slice your eggplant and onion into 1/2 inch slices and quarter your tomatoes. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, arrange them all, including the garlic cloves, and then spray the vegetables with oil again.
2. Roast approx. 30-45 minutes until the veggies are soft and carmelized. I had to take the eggplant out before the onions and tomatoes. Flip the veggies over halfway through. When they are done they will look delicious!
3. Let them cool until you can handle them and then chop into small pieces. At the same time, start boiling your pasta water. When the veggies are chopped, put them in a large saute pan.
4. If you tomatoes aren’t very sweet, add a little squirt of honey. Add some salt and pepper to taste and then cook slowly over medium heat until they kind of dissolve and mix together into a chunky sauce. If the veggies get dry, add a ladle full of pasta water.
5. When the water is boiling, make sure to salt it liberally. (I heard somewhere once that pasta water should taste like the sea. If your pasta recipes always seem like they’re missing something, this is probably it.) Then add your dry pasta.
6. While the pasta is cooking, get your basil. I had to pick mine from our balcony (why yes, I do live on the 13th floor and still have a vegetable garden!) I love basil so I picked a large handful.
7. When the pasta is al dente, drain it. (Whole wheat pasta takes a little longer to cook than white pasta, just so you know.)
8. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir. Let is sit for a couple minutes to absorb any liquid. Then add a biiiiiig handful of grated parmesan. (I’m from Wisconsin, you can never have enough cheese!) I like grated parmesan instead of shredded because it almost dissolves and makes the pasta all creamy. (But not the grated kind in the green can. I don’t even think that’s really cheese…)
About a year ago I ran across these gorgeous quilts by a Emily Fischer of Haptic Lab.
Quilt detail from Haptic Lab Studio
She’s also a designer with architectural background I just totally loved the idea of a quilted map. I wanted to create my own versions but while hers are beautifully hand-quilted, I knew I didn’t have the time to do that. I wanted to go with machine quilting and my machine can’t handle a bed sized quilt so I made a set of quilted city throw pillows. Yeah, maybe white is a little risky with a toddler but so far they’re still looking pretty good!
A friend of mine had been ogling them since I finished them and for her birthday this weekend, I thought I’d make one just for her and document my process.
I started out by deciding what size pillow I wanted (16″ x 16″) and cutting one 16″ square out of white quilting fabric, two squares of natural cotton batting, and two rectangles of my backing fabric (16″ x 10″) to form an envelope back for my pillow cover. Envelope backs are great because they are easy to make and easy to remove for washing (essential for a white pillow!).
I also cut strips of my backing fabric to use as binding for my pillow cover. I cut mine 2.5″ wide.
The next step was to decide what I was going to map. This was for a childhood friend of mine so I went with our hometown. My original pillows for our house have maps showing where my husband I met (Milwaukee), where we started dating (Kyoto, Japan), where we got married (Madison), and where we live now with O (downtown Chicago). I looked up a map of our hometown on Google maps, and sized it to print 16″ x 16″ in Photoshop. I had to piece together screen shots to get the whole city in the view. I printed it out in 4 pieces on my home printer and taped them together. Then I taped the map to a window in our living room, taped the white fabric square over it and got to tracing with a disappearing ink fabric pen–the ink goes away with just water. Here’s a pic of the map with fabric over it, taped up on my window:
Once the whole map was traced (I’ll be honest, it took a while), I was ready to start quilting! The first step is to layer the white square of fabric with the map on it with two pieces of quilt batting (I use two layers to make it puffier), usually when you’re quilting you want the batting to be a little bigger in dimension than the quilt top because it can move and pull a little as you’re sewing. Then when you’re done with the quilting step you trim it down. If you’re familiar with natural cotton quilt batting, you’ll also know that it sometimes has little brown specs in it which are just normal tiny pieces of stem and leaves; because it’s natural batting they don’t bleach that out. Usually one side of the batting has the specs and one side is cleaner. I have found that sometimes with white quilting fabric, the specs can show through, so make sure you put the cleaner side of your batting against the white fabric. Normally for a quilt, there would be another piece of fabric behind the quilt batting making what they call a “quilt sandwich” but because that would be inside the pillow I didn’t add it. Just make sure to clean the batting lint out of your sewing machine when you’re done. Pin in a few places with safety pins and start sewing!
The blue lines in the photo above are the map lines I traced with my disappearing ink pen and you can see in the lower right a few blocks and roads I have already sewed along. This part of quilting will take the longest and my only advice is to be patient and go slowly, especially if you have curvy lines. (And set up something good to watch on Netflix!)
When you’re all done quilting along all of your traced map lines, cut any loose threads (I usually do them all at the end) and then put your quilt top through the washer and dryer. You can handwash if you prefer. This gets rid of the pen lines and gives your map quilt top that cozy crinkly quilty look. When it’s dry, cut the batting to match the edge of your white quilted map fabric. Then lay your quilt top right side down on a table, and put the envelope back, right side up on top of it and pin.
Next, make your quilt binding and attach it by machine. If you haven’t done this before, here is my favorite tutorial for quilt binding. After you have attached it my machine to one side of the pillow cover, turn the pillow over and hand stitch it to the front using an invisible ladder stitch. Normally I would do the hand sewing on the back of the quilt or pillow cover but I spaced out and did it on the front this time, it was fine.