• 14Feb

    While we only took a day and a half off from working on the house while we were in Sweden, don’t think it was all work and no food!  From the very first day, we made sure there was coffee and a little something to eat, even if the atmosphere left something to be desired.  In Swedish, a coffee break is called a fika (FEE-kah).  And in Sweden, fika is taken very seriously.

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    Luckily, Bertil and Sonja left us a dining room table.

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    Berit and Gunnar came often to help—and bring fika!

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    And our neighbor, Byns Mats and Annacari welcomed us with a pensionärer kaka — a special and delicious cake.  Good thing I’d brought linens!

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    For awhile we had to move the table into the bedroom, but that didn’t mean we skipped fika!

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    My Aunt Evelyn was responsible for keeping my family in contact with our Swedish relatives, and I thought it fitting that I bring her china with me to our Swedish house.

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    I used it for the first time when Sven-Eric and Anna came for fika.

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    It was very special.

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    Fika isn’t always something sweet.  Sometimes it’s a sandwich.   Don’t you love a country whose cheese puffs are shaped like hearts!?!

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    And if we had Coke instead of coffee, there was no problem keeping it cold!

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    One day, when I had to drive to Vansbro to the hardware store, I stopped at the Vansbro Konditori for semlor – wonderful buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream!

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    Sometimes we brought a Thermos of coffee from Torsten’s, sometimes we got coffee at the mini-mart, and sometimes family or friends brought coffee.  Luckily, a few days before we left, we got our electric stove and were finally able to boil our own coffee!

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    So, as you can see, we worked hard, but, like good Swedes, we didn’t skip fika!

     

  • 08Feb

    At the end of December, we returned to Sweden with the plan to get the new kitchen done in just under a month!  We were down to bare walls and floor.  My first job, hammering in all of the nails on the floor to be sure everything was smooth!

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    I mentioned in an earlier post that the existing window came down too low to allow a counter under it, so we bought a new window.

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    You can see how much lower the other one was.  You can also see that it’s very dark out!  Sunrise was at 9:30 and sunset at 3:00!

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    We covered the walls with new plasterboard and decided to paint the ceiling white.  Bob suited up and put on four coats of paint–two of oil based sealer and two latex.

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    In the meantime, I painted the panels for the wainscoting a pale gray.

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    I had chosen linoleum tiles for the floor, mostly gray with a few red.

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    Torsten and Bob did a good job of interpreting the design I sketched out on a piece of plasterboard!

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    Ever since we’d bought the house in September, I’d been planning the kitchen on Ikea’s nifty kitchen planner.

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    So off we went to Ikea, plan in hand.

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    Bob and Torsten looked over installation brochures while we waited for assistance.

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    Here’s our kitchen – in boxes!

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    It took two rooms to put them all!

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    And then the fun began!  Torsten and Gunnar figuring it out.

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    Is it all going to fit?

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    The Ikea system uses rails that are mounted on the wall, and the cabinets hang from them.

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    You have to love the Swedish instructions, because they tell you to take a “fika” (coffee break) after getting the rails up!

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    We did as told, then the guys started hanging the cabinets.

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    Let’s see, put tab “A” in slot “B”.

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    Like all old houses, are walls weren’t exactly straight, but with some tweaking, everything went up.

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    It was exciting when the doors started going on.

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    I couldn’t resist putting a Dala horse in one of the cabinets!

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    The new stove fit perfectly between the cabinets and the wood stove!

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    Once the cabinets were in, the wainscoting was next.

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    A little electrical work….

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    ….and the proud installers!

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    Next, the finishing touches!

  • 07Feb

    I think at one time, every Swedish house had a vedspis – wood stove.  Often they had one in the kitchen and one in an upstairs apartment.  Many houses still have them, but many have been removed.  Our house had one originally, but it had been replaced by the freestanding fireplace which we removed when we dismantled the old kitchen.  They are quite different than wood cookstoves in America.  I decided right away that I wanted one, and when I mentioned to one of my Swedish relatives, Sven-Eric, that I was going to look for a renovated one, he told me he had two in his barn, and I was welcome to take one!  I learned this on my way to the airport, so I didn’t get a chance to look at them.  Luckily, Torsten took charge and uncovered them.  One was cracked, but one was in good shape.  Well, relatively speaking!

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    Before we returned to Sweden, Torsten and his mason friend, Mikael, got the vedspis put in place for us.  First they had to shovel a path to the barn where it was stored.

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    These wood stoves aren’t freestanding, so a brick base had to be built.

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    They could see where the original vedspis had been.

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    This part is for wood storage.

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    It is cast iron like the stove and has two doors.

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    Once the base was built, the vedspis was set on top.  Nice and level!  The top left door is the firebox, the one below is the clean-out and the big one is the oven door, with a built-in thermometer!

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    More bricks to surround it.

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    The right side is complete.

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    Mikael is leaving a space for a water cistern next to the firebox.

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    Then the bricks get covered with a special cement.

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    It’s beautiful!  If you compare this photo to the first one, you can see that Torsten did a lot of work removing old rust and, undoubtedly, years of grime!

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    Here’s the wood storage with the doors on.

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    The stove was in relatively good shape, leading Mikael and Torsten to speculate that it was in an upstairs apartment and not used too much.

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    You can see the layers of paint on the old chimney–and evidence of a chimney fire!

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    We had to grind all of the old paint off so it can be re-cemented.  Ugh.  It was a nasty job.

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    We found an old copper cistern on an online auction site.

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    The heat from the firebox heated the water, so you always had hot water to wash your dishes!

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    Did you know there is really something called Stove Black—and it does just what the name says?

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    You can see what a difference it made!

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    The cement will be painted white, as will the hood which will be built over this and the electric stove.

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    And it makes the kitchen so cozy when you have a fire!

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    Thank you, Sven-Eric, Torsten and Mikael!

     

     

     

  • 06Feb

    When we bought our house in Sweden in September, we knew the first thing we wanted to do was remodel the kitchen.

    It had a large, freestanding fireplace that kind of blocked the door as you entered.

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    We knew it had to go!  Let me tell you, it was one heavy dog!

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    There was a lovely window that let in a lot of light, but it was so big, that there was no room to put a counter under it.

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    And the sink and stove were right next to each other.  I thought it would be nice move the sink under the window.

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    There was an island and two floor to ceiling cabinets on the left in this photo….

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    …one of which held the oven.

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    And on the opposite wall was a huge refrigerator and huge freezer!  It was all quite cramped.

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    We decided to take it all out!

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    Right down to the bare walls.

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    So that’s what we did!

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    It’s amazing what you uncover in an old house, like an old doorway, layers of old wallpaper and signs of a chimney fire!

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    I loved looking at the old wallpapers, and tried to preserve a little of each.  This is the oldest and original, from 1930 when the house was built.

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    This one, which has orange in it, was next.  It almost looks like old linoleum.

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    There was this rather plain basket weave.

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    My color scheme for the new kitchen is white, gray and red, so imagine my delight when I found this one in those very colors!

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    Tearing out a kitchen is a big job–and we did it in two days–then headed back home.

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    Of course we were anxious to get back and start on the new kitchen, but that had to wait.

     

  • 26Dec
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 9

    I’m lucky enough to live very close to my mom, and we go out to lunch almost everyday.

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    But Bob and I are heading to our Swedish house for almost a month, and Mom’s worried she’s going to really, really miss us.  And when you’re 90, it can be hard to remember just when we’re coming back.  So, I decided a little visual reminder might be good!

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    I got some adorable little bags and stickers at Scrapuccino’s.

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    I did the countdown and Bob punched holes.

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    I added a few notes here and there.

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    And then it was candy time!

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    I filled each bag with a piece of candy.

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    Then I added a little pink ribbon—Mom’s favorite color.

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    Luckily, I had an empty box from Christmas…

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    …and they fit perfectly!

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    I hope it helps the days go by a little faster.

    Tags:
  • 18Dec
    Categories: musings Comments: 0

    Here’s another favorite from Bob’s side of the family.  His mom made them every Christmas.  They have a brown sugar dough and a filling of dates and walnuts.  Yum!

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    Date Pinwheels

    Ingredients for Cookies:

    4 cups flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    4 sticks butter
    2 cups brown sugar
    3 eggs, beaten

    Ingredients for Filling:

    2-1/4 cups chopped dates
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup finely chopped walnuts
    1 cup water

    Put first three ingredients in a bowl.  Stir with a whisk to combine.

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and brown sugar about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and mix until well blended.

    Add the dry ingredients in three or four parts to butter mixture.  Mix until a nice ball comes together.

    Divide the dough into three equal balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

    While dough is chilling, prepare filling by combining dates, sugar, walnuts and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

    On a lightly floured board, roll out one ball of cookie doing into a 12″ x 8″ rectangle.

    Spread a third of the date filling evenly on the dough.

    Beginning with the long side, roll the dough up jelly roll style.

    Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Repeat with the other two balls of dough.

    With a sharp, thin knife, slice rolls into 1/4″ thick slices.

    Place 1″ apart on a cookie sheet.

    Bake at 375 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes.

    Yield – 144 delicious cookies!

  • 12Dec

    Today we leave Sweden and travel to Scotland for out latest cookie — Scottish Shortbread.

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    While not Swedish, they are a perfect, buttery cookie to go along with our others.  And, besides, they’re a tradition in Bob’s family.  This is his Scottish grandmother’s recipe and has been passed down through his dad.  And, now, I’m happy to say, his boys are sharing it with their kids, too!

    This simple cookie has only three ingredients — butter, sugar and flour!  The final product can take on many shapes, but this year, we did “coins.”  Start by dividing the dough into fourths and rolling out a log 1-1/2″ to 2″ in diameter.

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    We like to roll these in colored sugar.

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    Just sprinkle some on a piece of waxed paper…

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    …and roll!

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    You can use lots of different colors.

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    Roll each log up in waxed paper and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  Then, slice them with a sharp knife into little coins.

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    Bake until they just start to brown.  I overcooked some of mine.  ;-(

    But, we still plan to eat them!

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    Scottish Shortbread

    Ingredients:
    4 sticks butter
    1 cup sugar
    4 cups flour

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar about 2 minutes.

    Add flour in three or four parts to butter mixture.  Mix until a nice ball comes together.

    Knead lightly and divide into four pieces.  Roll each piece into a log approximately 1-1/2″ to 2″ in diameter.

    Roll in colored sugar, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate two hours or overnight.

    Slice into “coins” and bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.

    Yields 100 cookies.

  • 10Dec
    Categories: musings Comments: 0

    It’s Day Two of Seven Kinds of Cookies–the traditional number of cookies served with coffee in Sweden.  So, what’s more appropriate than Swedish Spritz.

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    These cookies require a special press or gun.

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    I got mine in 1974!  Can you tell by the avocado green and big daisy?

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    It’s a basic, shortbread dough that’s pressed through the gun onto your cookie sheet.  BIG TIP!  Sometimes they don’t want to stick to the cookie sheet.  The best way to improve this is to refrigerate you cookie sheets!  Then, it will work like a dream.

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    Sprinkle your cookies with colored sugar and bake.

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    That’s all there is to it.  Enjoy!

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    Swedish Spritz

    Ingredients:
    4 sticks butter
    1 cup sugar
    2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
    2 eggs
    4-1/2 cups flour
    1 tsp salt

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar about 2 minutes.  Add the extract and eggs.  Mix until well blended.

    In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.  Whisk together to mix, then add in three or four parts to butter mixture.  Mix until a nice ball comes together.

    Fill your cookie press and press out onto a chilled cookie sheet.

    Sprinkle with colored sugar.

    Bake 6-8 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

    Enjoy!

    Yield–a lot!

    tea1

  • 09Dec
    Categories: Everything! Comments: 4

    It is the tradition in Sweden that you offer your guests seven kinds of cookies when you have them over for coffee.  Now that Christmas is coming, cookie baking is in full swing for me, so I thought I would share my seven favorite cookie recipes with you.  First is Hallongrotor – Raspberry Caves.  This is the first year I have made them, and they are my new favorite!

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    Once you make the dough, which has fresh orange rind in it, you roll them into little balls and put them into lined mini-muffin tins.

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    You need to make a “cave” for the jam.  You could use your finger, but I found the end of this scoop worked great for me.

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    Then it’s time to add a bit of jam.  Raspberry is traditional, but I suppose you could use whatever you like.  Before you put the jam in, brush the tops with a bit of water.  Then, add the jam and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

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    I used to bring pearl sugar home from Sweden with me, but now you can find it at Ikea!

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    The jam bubbles up a bit during baking.

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    Enjoy!

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    Hallongrottor – Raspberry Caves

    Ingredients:
    2 sticks butter
    1 cup sugar
    zest of 1 orange
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
    2-1/2 cups flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    Pearl sugar
    3/4 cup raspberry jam

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar about 2 minutes.  Add orange zest, vanilla, egg and yolk.  Mix until well blended.

    In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together to mix, then add in three or four parts to butter mixture.  Mix until a nice ball comes together.

    Using you hands, shape pieces of dough into balls, about the size of a walnut, and place in lined mini-muffin tins.

    Make an “cave” in the top with your finger or the end of a kitchen utensil, like the scoop I used.

    Brush the top of the cookies with a little water.  I did one pan at a time.

    Fill caves with raspberry jam and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

    Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

    Yield 48

     

     

     

  • 05Dec

    A good friend of my sister’s lost her husband a few years ago.  She still had three of his Hawaiian shirts in her closet, and when she saw a quilt made out of old shirts, she knew she wanted to use the Hawaiian shirts for quilts for her three children.  Since she’s not a quilter, Sally put the SOS out to me.  The timing was perfect, as we were going to a retreat at The Wild Rose.

    Sally brought along the shirts and I started unstitching them.

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    It was really a bigger job than I thought, but I wanted to make the most of the fabric.  I ended up cutting the shirts into 4-1/2″ squares.  I divided them in thirds and put one stack up on the design wall to balance out the colors.

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    I wanted the quilts to be similar, but still different, and I wanted the prints to be the “stars” of the show.  So I decided I would use solids and set the blocks together with sashing and cornerstones.

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    It’s a very simple setting, but I think it served its purpose.

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    I finished them off with a simple stipple.

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    Each shirt had a pocket, so I stitched one to the back of each quilt.

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    I was pleased with the way they turned out.

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    I’m sure the kids will treasure them.

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    If you want the fabric requirements to make one of your own, they’re below.  This is also a great way to show off fussy cut, novelty prints or even photo transfer blocks.

    Hawaiian Shirt Quilt

    Materials

    1 Hawaiian shirt (I got enough squares from each shirt to do one quilt, but I mixed them up for interest)

    7/8 yard cornerstones and inner border fabric

    2-1/4 yards sashing and outer border

    4 yards backing

    From the Hawaiian shirts cut 80) 4-1/2″ squares

    From the cornerstone/inner border fabric, cut 10) 2-1/2″ strips.  Cut four strips into 2-1/2″ squares for cornerstones. Use remaining squares for inner border.

    From the sashing/outer border fabric cut 18) 2-1/2″ strips; crosscut into 142) 4-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ rectangles for the sashing.  Then cut 7) 4-1/2″ strips for the border

    Cut the backing into two equal pieces.

    I pulled the backing around to the front of the quilts and machine stitched for the binding.