Wednesday, December 20, 2006

useful bags and cranberry torte

I have been making gift bags for about 15 years. I donate them to my kids schools craft fairs where they have become popular items. The methods have changed a bit over the years, and the current version I find very efficient.
I had an open house at where I teach quilting at the Portage Park Center for the Arts last night and we had about a dozen people drop in and make these bags. My cranberry torte was popular and I include the recipe.

Useful bags
Designed by Lynn Dykstra
Portage Park Center for the Arts

This simple bag is just the size to carry a pair of shoes in winter, diaper supplies, a child’s change of clothes, or as a reusable gift bag and storage bag for ornaments.

Supplies to make two bags:
½ yard of fabric
1 ½ yards coordinating rattail cut in half
(actually, I leave it whole, cutting to size after stringing the bags--my frugal side.)
Coordinating sewing thread
Fra-check to seal ends of rattail

Cut in fabric in half and square off to measure 18” by about 21”.

Press in 18” sides ¼ inch.

Press in 21” top ¼ inch.

Press down 21” top another 1 inch to form a casing.

Top stitch along bottom edge of 1 inch casing.

Fold bag in half, right sides together. Sew along side from just above previous stitching, down the side, pivot, sew along the bottom.

Trim bottom with pinking shears.

Turn right side out.

With safety pin as a “needle”, thread the rattail through the casing. Knot the rattail. Dab edges of rattail with Fra-check.


Hazelnut Cranberry Torte

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper in the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan.

2 cups cranberries (you can chop these or leave them whole—the cake slices better if you chop them.)
1/2-3/4 cut chopped hazelnuts (I’ve also used walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
½ cup sugar

Mix together and put in bottom of the pan.

For the Batter
Cream together:
12 Tablespoons butter, melted (1 ½ sticks) Do NOT use margarine!
1 cup sugar
Beat in: 2 large eggs
1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp. almond extract (I have also used vanilla, lemon, or hazelnut extracts)

Mix batter until smooth—it will be thick like a biscuit batter. Spoon over the cranberries and nuts and spread carefully.

Bake from 40-55 minutes. It will take a little over an hour if the cranberries are frozen and left whole. Make sure the center of the batter is done!

Loosen from sides of springform and remove sides. Invert onto a serving plate right away and remove the pan and parchment.

Serve warm or cold. Can dust with powdered sugar or serve with whipped cream.
It slices easier if it is a day old.

I buy about 6 bags of cranberries, several pound of butter, and a few bags of nuts at the start of the holiday potluck season and make this for nearly every one we go to.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

dragon teeth workshop

A few weeks ago I had a Dragon Teeth workshop at the Portage Park Center for the Arts. My samples are in the first and last photo, and my students' work is in the middle photograph. I enjoyed this workshop, and love at the variety of quilts they made. I am having an open house at the arts center on Tuesday, December 19th in the evening. If any of you Chicago types want to come, just email me for details.
I have had several questions on this pattern--I adapted it from Karla Alexander's second book, Stack a New Deck--I believe she called it Lizard Lounge, or something like that. I worked in sizing changes, setting options, and a few other quirks. I also like my title better! This book is great, better than the first in this series. I like her way of looking at freedom in block making.

photos again!

I finally broke down and bought a new camera/computer cord. This means I will find the lost cord this week, as usually happens in this house (see battery charger incident last year).
This Saturday some women of my church decorated our tree in the chapel. I made the tree skirt, one year later than I was asked, but I finally got it done. It is a church with a German history, so I planned to use a loden boiled wool, until I priced it. I switched to a loden fake suede with a gold embroidery. I made it into an octagon, added an ivory corded trim, and am pleased with it, except it seems a bit flat, even when draped--my mind still wants that boiled wool thickness. Maybe I can poof it up with some tissue paper.
This tree is decorated with fruit and pine cones. Very pretty. I made the parament in the background for Advent about 10 years ago.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dykstra cousins

Being born in the middle of 20 cousins (on one side--26 on the other!) has given me the advantage of remembering them all well--those at the beginning or end of the pack are less likely to have this.
Christmas 1959 has me at the youngest in the photo--the crying one. My sister and I are wearing matching red dresses my mother made. There is one cousin 3 months younger than me not in the picture--she must have been crying even harder.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

dungeon laundry room

(note to relatives horrified at the condition of my laundry room and that I am showing it--this is part of a ring of quilters posting photos of our laundry rooms. You may come by and help me clean it any time!)

Living in a 100 year old house means the laundry room is in the basement that looks like a dungeon. I was hesitant showing it, but realized we are the sixth family to live in this house and the others did nothing to improve it either, so I'm not the only lazy one. The washer and dryer were placed on concrete steps decades ago to prevent damage during the occasional storm drain backup that Chicago downpours give our neighborhood.
For the first 6 years we lived here (and for two pregnancies), this was also our only shower. Every shower during the third pregnancy I gave thanks for not having to shower in a cold place with spiders.
I saw a wonderful photo of a laundry room painted Chinese red, with colorful paper lanterns. The apple green idea is great too.
I may just have to put this place in order.

Monday, October 30, 2006

my favorite halloween story

I have not been posting as we have lost the cord to upload from the camera to the computer. I have 2 posts ready, but not the photos. One is about my dungeon basement laundry room!
So, I will share a story an acquaintance told me about her Grandmother.

Grandma had moved to town from the farm, and the family was worried about her safety as this town had a reputation for wild Halloween pranks. An uncle spent Halloween night with Grandma and told of her evening.
At about 10pm there was a knock at the door and on the porch was a group of teenaged boys. "Trick or Treat," they called out in their low voices.
Grandma replied, "Oh, I'm out of candy, but here are some cigarettes for you."
They awoke the next morning to find that every house on the block had been toilet papered except for Grandma's!

Monday, October 02, 2006

another maple leaf


This was my second maple leaf--I had most of the blocks made and searched for the best orange for the setting strips and border. I found this beautiful Princess Mirah batik when I was on jury duty in the Land Beyond Ohare (what we Chicago types call where I tend to get lost),
It is being held by a nice young man from New Zealand who is visiting with my nephew. They teach English in Korea and are watching Korean soap operas on tv this morning before heading downtown.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

fall, maple leaves

Judy and others have been posting maple leaf quilts. I have made two, this is the first, made about 8 years ago--one that got away without a label. The pattern was in American Patchwork and Quilting, I followed it closer than I do most patterns. I changed the orientation of the blocks to get a more diagonal feel. Note one of my signature ghost blocks--I love including a few low contrast blocks in a quilt.
Lots of thrift store shirts in this quilt!
The little leaves are 6 inches, the large ones 9 inches.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

another county line--aqua and red

My Grandma Dykstra's kitchen on our farm was a wonderful aqua/turquoise color with red counters and clock. We moved into this house when I was about 5 and my mother painted it a great pink with the red accents. In my memory it is two different places even though they were the same room, because I associate each with the woman and the color.
This quilt reminds me of Grandma's time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I haven't gotten the binding on this yet, but it is time I update this blog.
This quilt has many influences. Of course, the Gee's Bend exhibit that was in Milwaukee a few years ago. Then, my friend Rebecca made a wonderful blue quilt from her stash. But what got this one going was the great Japanese fabric with the blue and grey and red carp. I had just a bit of it, and used it in the interior and the borders.
I took a stack of blue fabrics from my shelf, tore out a 9 inch strip from each, and free hand cut them into pieces with the rotary cutter. I sewed them into columns about 12-16 inches long, squared them up, then joined them to make the rows.

Friday, August 04, 2006

a magic carpet trip around the world

I used Bonnie's trip directions to make this great quilt. I cut my strips 2" by 19", used 9 strips in each set, and found if I squared off the sewn strips before I made it into a tube, it laid flatter for me.

I used a wild assortment of scraps of fabrics--often very ugly ones. I used a bright yellow or dark red in each strip set.

Thanks, Bonnie, for another fun project. My son Seth has claimed this one. I will take it along on vacation to do the handwork on the binding.

Monday, July 24, 2006

hand dyed chevron quilt

My small group has wonderful dyeing days, where we each chip in a number of procion dyes that we share. We gather in a member's yard and wow each other in our direct application dying. At the next meeting we show off our washed and ironed fabric and are inspired to cut into them.
This chevron log cabin was inspired by my friend Erica's quilt. I can't even remember what hers looks like anymore, but I love how this turned out. Cissie brought along some silk salts that I used on the fuchia that became the border. It was quilted by Suzette in a wonderful circle pattern. I gave it to my daugher for her eighth grade graduation. I used one of Jane Sassaman's fabrics for the back.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

sewing in church

Catherine gave a great list of places she has done handwork and wondered about sewing in church.
While traveling in Germany, I saw many women knit in church.

I have had several deadlines, often with church related sewing that had me sitting in the balcony and sewing during the sermon. The last time was a stole for an ordination that was taking place after the service--I had two friends sewing with me!
There are several women who crochet during the service, and quite a few of us who knit in the sanctuary while the choir and organist rehearse before the service--or in the quiet before anything starts.
So, if you want to do handwork in church, you are welcome to join me in the balcony at St Pauls!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July

We had two invitations for parties today, both which were cancelled at the last minute, so we invited about 30 neighbors to eat together in front of our house. Now the Kenji Arsenal is being set off, to the delight of the human neighbors, and the terror of the canine variety.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

father's day

(A late father's day post--I had to hunt down the photo and figure out the scanner.)

I love this picture of my father with his daughters. It is about 1962; Janna is the adoring daughter, Beth with the rattle, and I'm the pensive one. Dad looks like he is enjoying life, and smiling at my mother with the camera.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

framed nine-patch

I organized the raffle quilt for my guild and finished the quilt this week. Sue DiVarco did a beautiful job of quilting it.
I used the same pattern for a quilt for my mother 1 1/2 years ago. This one is 90" by 104".
As always when making a group quilt there is a pile of "I don't think so" blocks, but it was remarkably small with this one. People followed my instructions very well.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jane Sassaman

I love Jane Sassaman's fabrics and have been using them on the backs of quilts for teenaged girls lately.
On this one, (I showed the top unquilted before) the wonderful quilter, Suzette Fisher, quilted from the back and used the flowers as a guide. They appear as embroidery in the stained glass.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

princess and the pea

We have been preparing for a bridal shower Saturday for my nephew's fiance. I had a goal of knitting 7 dishcloths--6 are done and #7 is one baseball practice away from being finished.
I love how colorful they are. Together they remind me of the many layers in my favorite childhood story "the Princess and the Pea", probably not the most progressive story out there for little girls, but it had great illustrations of quilts and mattresses.

So, I have been knitting at baseball, fencing, tennis, while blinded at an eye exam, and two, count them two mamogram sessions in 5 days. The report was good, but I was knitting furiously between takes at the call back.
An odd look comes over people's faces when they ask what I am making, and I reply "dishcloth". A bit of pity that this is a waste of time. But, in the time they have been watching a practice, I have watched a practice, PLUS come out with 1/3 of a dishcloth!

Monday, May 01, 2006

county lines

The pattern County Lines by Mountainpeek Creations
has become a new favorite of mine after my friend Donna introduced me to it.
I love that it can be made from what is on my shelves. I've made it with thirties repro reds with aqua sashing--the colors of my grandmother's kitchen! This one I made with fushia and orange batiks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

dragon teeth

Karla Alexander's second book, Stack a New Deck, is excellent for giving me ideas.

I made this quilt with humble materials, lots of thrift store shirts, with a few fabulous florals added.
Very primative looking. Kind of in the ugly quilt category, but I love it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

egg hunt

Today is the day of the big LeClaire Avenue Egg Hunt, and it looks like there will be no snow, wind, or rain!
I hung out over the porch railings some of my Easter Egg colored quilts. I hope it distracts the neighbors from our less than adequate lawn and garden care...

Monday, April 03, 2006


This week is the big expo here in the suburb of Rosemont. If you go, take the el as the River Road stop is just as close as the parking ramp, and the ramp cost $11.00 last year.
Last year I restricted myself after indulging the previous two years. This year I plan to take it easy too. I can do alot with the fabric already in my house. I re-read Bonnie's shopping the stash piece, and find that adding just a few new fat quarters can make my old fabrics look good again in new combinations.
This is a detail of a quilt I made in 2000. All from stash.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

chocolate pudding

My oldest son has developed a craving for chocolate pudding since track practice restarted. I was making the Jello box stuff, and decided I could do better, so I went back to the cornstarch pudding my mother had us make. I have tweaked the recipe to make, what I think is a pretty good one.
I like to cook on the stovetop, but after many trials, find it scorches less in the microwave.

1/3 cup Droste Cocoa (I am a good Dutch girl)
1/4 cup corn starch
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wisk together in a 2 quart bowl so you have lots of room for stiring without it sloshing over the edge.

Slowly wisk in 2 cups of milk. (I've been using 2%)

Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes. Wisk. Microwave in one minute intervals, wisking between, until pretty thick--it will stick to the edges a bit at the done part. It takes about 3 1/2-5 more minutes in my microwave.
Wisk in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Let cool, wisking about every 3-5 minutes for the first 15, unless you, like my son, like pudding skins!
Pour into cups you have rinsed with cold water. (then the pudding won't stick)
Enjoy warm or cold!

Sunday, March 26, 2006


My mother makes these amazing smocked blankets for grandchildren. This one was for Seth. She starts with velvet, velveteen, or velour, draws a 1 inch grid on the back with marker or chalk, and then uses embroidery floss to smock from the back side. She has several different patterns that look like braids or basket weaves. I don't know this step--I plan to have a grid drawn on a light green velveteen the next time we are together so she can show me the smocking.
After the smocking is completed, she pins a cotton lining to the back and folds under the velvet and backing. She also tacks the top to back with floss, tied to the back and hidden in the smocking.

Aside: I have a problem in using from both my Mac and my Dell. It happens in both Safari and Mozilla. Could it be the SBC DSL that is blocking it? Could it be a firewall? I was able to use it for months, and now it times out when I try to use it.
Any ideas would be welcome!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


My mother and I did handwork while we sat with my father in the hospital last week (knee surgery). I bound three quilts and she worked on a smocked blanket.
This quilt is for my sister Janna's birthday (and is 10 months late). My friend Erica had made a quilt with her florals--I really liked it and went to my pile of large scale florals. I took ideas from Stack a New Deck, but used my own methods.
I like how it turned out--I used a bit of fabric from my grandmother who died in 1948. She had just one grandchild at the time. Eventually there were 26 of us. I used some of that fabric in a quilt for my mother 5 years ago and plan to use the rest in one for my younger sister.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

the lions' den

This year's Bible Story Theater at our church was the story of Daniel. I was in charge of the lions' costumes--the 4 and 5 year olds. We had a great sweat shop that did most of the work.

I also helped design the costumes for the angels (high schoolers) and the fiery furnace flames (1st and 2nd graders)--but other people did all the work.

Monday, February 06, 2006

scot's plaid

I love this quilt--I made it about 8 years ago from my 1 1/2 inch and 2 1/2 inch strips drawers. Who knew I had this many reds?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

new stuff

I am getting used to a new computer and a new camera. I have a wonderful memory of my grandmother, sitting at the new telephone when we moved from operator phones to dials in about 1963. She just sat there, overwhelmed by this new technology.
She did master it, though. And I can too!
This quilt is for my father's 75th birthday which was last March. I gave it to him quilted for Christmas. And, I hope, bound on his 76th birthday! My family accepts the same quilt at different stages for different occasions. I'm lucky they like me.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I love collecting neutrals and have an extensive selection that I pulled from for this quilt. Lots of them are conversationals. I also like to push neutrals to include lavender, green, and pink.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Foster Avenue Beach

A favorite place of mine in Chicago is Foster Avenue Beach. Many years ago, our city in its wisdom, saved most of the lakefront to have public access and be free of buildings. A few politically connected buildings have been built, but for the most part, the lake is open and beautiful.
Foster Avenue Beach is a family beach--we like to get there by 10 and leave by noon, ahead of the sun.
These pictures are taken in the spring, but it is beautiful in the winter too--I plan to head there tomorrow.