Wednesday, August 11, 2010

put together a beginner embroidery kit

I have had so much fun over the past week putting together this beginner embroidery kit for a very special little girl celebrating her 8th birthday. It was a bit of a risk - what if she's not interested? - but I decided to take the chance. I mean, she's in the direct line of craft greatness, so she's got to be interested, right? If not now, then someday. And when she feels that pull, she'll be prepared. 

It all started with this book by artist Helen Dardik, which was the first I came across when looking for a simple, easy and engaging instructional book for the beginner embroiderer. Quite serendipitous, I thought, considering this little girl's mother is already a big Dardik fan.

[I now interrupt this post to slap myself in the forehead really hard. 

I just headed on over to mmmcrafts for a link to where I know I've seen her mention Helen Dardik more than once, when I find this. That's right. She has the book. ARRGGG. I guess now you don't have to share your copy with the girls, Larissa. And in case you've already created and posted about an embroidery kit for them and I've just forgotten that as well, please don't remind me. 

grumble grumble grumble...]

Okay, so, the first step in creating a beginner embroidery kit is to find a good book with clear instructions, detailed pictures, and inspiring projects. Preferable one that the giftee does not currently own or have ready access to by walking down the hall. This Dardik book is a good one. (Jenny Hart can also be relied upon for modern embroidery patterns that range from sweet to subversive. Her book Sublime Stitching is great, too.) Check out a couple of these cute projects from Embroidery for Little Miss Crafty

Next, I included the basics: a 4" embroidery hoop, embroidery scissors, a few fat quarters (a couple of fun prints and a basic white) and a selection of embroidery thread in bright, girly colors. 

Now for the fun part. A simple sheath for her scissors (made from fabric purchased here during a recent trip to Austin that I hope to post about soon.): 

A needle case stocked with nice, new sharps and a few of my favorite vintage buttons: 

And a pin cushion: 

I knew I wanted to include a felt pin cushion, and that it should be something youthful and whimsical. I was inspired by the owl fabric and remembered AMH's owl ornament, so I started there with her pattern, but ended up resizing the body, then scrapping her wings and eyes and redesigning my own, and adding the breast piece. If you want to recreate this pincushion, I'd direct you to her pattern, then suggest that you tweak to your tastes like I did and stuff it a good bit fuller than you would for an ornament. 

I placed all of these goodies in a perfectly sized, apple green suitcase (similar to these) from Kate's Paperie in NYC. I had tucked it away since my trip there last year, knowing that it would find its ideal purpose eventually. 

And, finally, Gage wanted in on the sewing and gifting action, so he sat down and knocked this out for his little friend: 

I tried to convince him to stitch "Hereto I plight thee my troth" but that was a no-go. In the end, he went with a simple monogram. Probably the better choice. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

simple summer stone fruit cobbler

I love cherry season. As a family, we generally consume about 25 pounds in a span of two or three months. (I'm not telling how much of that I'm personally responsible for. Ahem.) This simple cobbler is one of my favorite ways to eat cherries. It's also a great way to use all of those other yummy summer stone fruits, like peaches, nectarines and plums. This recipe is kind of a cheater cobbler: still from scratch, just without all that dough making, rolling and cutting. Perfect for surprise guests or afternoon cravings. 

Summer Stone Fruit Cobbler

1/4 cup butter (That's right. Real butter. I said it was simple, not healthy)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

~ 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of the stone fruit of  your choice 
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

Prep your fruit, first, by washing it really well. If you're using peaches, nectarines or plums, remove the stone and slice your fruit. (I don't peel my fruit for this recipe because I like it to be a bit more rustic. Plus it's prettier. Suit yourself on this.) If you're using cherries, spend the next hour laboriously cutting and pitting the little wretches OR you could do like I did and buy yourself one of these handy little kitchen wonders and be done with pitting in mere minutes: 

( I did the Snoopy Happy Dance when I first used this)

Okay, fruit cleaned, pitted and sliced (except for the cherries, which I leave whole), toss it into a bowl with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix well, coating each piece of fruit with the sugar mixture. (If I don't have time to let my fruit sit for a while, I massage it a bit, especially the cherries [really, I come pretty close to crushing these], to get the juices flowing really well. If you can let the peaches, nectarines and plums sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, they'll get juicy on their own.)

Preheat your oven to 375. I really like to use a well seasoned, cast iron skillet for this cobbler. The advantage is that it will give your cobbler a beautiful, crunchy, delicious crust. Totally worth the extra effort. 

Melt your butter on the stove top in the cast iron skillet while you mix the batter. You want the skillet hot and the butter melted and swirled around the edges of the pan to coat the bottom and prevent the batter from sticking. Be careful not to burn the butter - if you're nervous about the multitasking, just wait until your batter is mixed to heat your skillet and melt the butter. You could also let your skillet heat up in the oven as it preheats, then take it out to melt the butter once your batter is mixed. 

Now for the rest of the batter. This couldn't be easier. Blend the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk and vanilla well with a whisk and pour over the melted butter in the skillet or baking dish. Very important: do not stir. Distribute the prepared fruit gently over the batter, again without stirring. 

Bake for 40 minutes, until the batter is starting to turn golden brown and crisping around the edges. Serve your cobbler hot out of the oven with ice cream or freshly whipped cream, if you like. Or, just as good, straight out of the fridge the next morning for breakfast. 

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