Okay, where are we here. Let's start with the grilled shrimp. These are the Grilled Spicy Jalapeno and Lime Shrimp Skewers from the summer 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated: Summer Grilling issue. This is a great issue. We actually have all three of the current Cook's Illustrateds around here: grilling, the June issue, and the Summer Entertaining issue. Andy got a subscription to the regular magazine for his birthday, and it is a great magazine, especially for scientifically minded people, since it really goes into the hows and whys of cooking in a very user-friendly and approachable — conversational — way. Each recipe details the process of discovery in creating the best version of the recipe, much like the companion television show, America's Test Kitchen, does, if you watch that (I TiVo it). Good stuff. Lots of extra information about buying shrimp, what kind of skewers work best, and . . . grilling everything. I forgot that all of their on-line recipes are protected, so in order to access the shrimp recipe on-line you'll need to sign up for a 14-day trial if you are not a member; we made the recipe exactly as written so I can't copy it here for you. But this is a great issue and those guys work really hard on this stuff so you won't be disappointed if you get do sign up, or buy the magazine on the newsstand.
Next: Patches! The magical patches. I don't think anyone guessed the special technique, so here it is! To make a square patched pillow cover, what you do is this: Take a square of featherweight fusible interfacing the size of your finished cover plus seam allowances to every patch seam and side seams and lay it, fusible side up, on a cutting mat or a flat cardboard box — something big that you can carry over to the ironing board. Then lay out all of your patches with their cut edges butted right up next to each other in very straight rows and columns. Then take the mat over to the ironing board and carefully transfer it to the ironing board to press. Press all the patches lightly but securely to the interfacing. Then, with right sides of the patches together, fold the outermost column of patches down along the "gutter" created by the tiny space of interfacing between columns, and stitch the seam, using a scant 1/4" seam allowance. Continue across the width of the pillow in this way, and press all of the seams in the same direction (pressing only on the right side of the fabric). Turn the pillow cover 90 degrees, and repeat for all of the rows. Voila! You have a pillow cover front in minutes!
I will be putting together a pattern with step-by-step instructions for the two pillows pictured above in the next week or so. I think you could use this technique for anything that requires a certain amount of body — pillow covers, of course, but also placemats, table runners, seat cushions, potholders, maybe even little girls' dress bodices, or the hem of a skirt, or jean cuffs, certainly bags. It's absolutely perfect for bags. I don't think it's perfect for actual quilts that you are going to wash and sleep under, because of the interfacing, but that's just me; I like floppy cottons in my quilts, and since the interfacing is synthetic it won't allow the quilt to behave as you might like. But it's a really cool technique, and I am making pillows like a crazy woman for all my summer birthday presents, and some to sell in my web shop. I think I'll probably make pillow kits available, too, with cut patches, interfacing, piping, and backing for a 16" pillow, since I have cut hundreds and hundreds of patches in the past couple of weeks. These patches are very similar to the ones that I cut for the Tanglewood Bags and my cats' living-room pillows last summer -- a bit of Liberty lawn, a bit of solid, a bit of really cool contemporary quilters cotton. I am still loving this look so much. I wish I had known about the technique then, because those pillows took forever.
Speaking of the web shop, I have finished seventeen Jane Market Bags for you! I was trying desperately to make twenty, but I just can't make any more. The cool thing about them is that they are true stash bags — all of them are made out of fabrics that I already had on my shelves. I am going to try and get them all photographed and in the web shop early next week, so I'll let you know when they're there. I am trying out some new computer code that I'm hoping will eliminate the possibility of two people buying the same bag at the same time, so we'll see about that. But these are truly one-of-a-kind and can't be replicated, so I am keeping my fingers crossed about that, so no one is disappointed (my least favorite thing about having a web shop).
Lastly today, my first summer reading book is Little, Big by John Crowley. This is my fourth time reading it — I first read it at the perfect time in my life for it, and it's probably my all-time favorite summer book. I had started and stopped a couple of my new books recently, and then just had the urge to go for the sure thing, since I know it will be good. It's not for everyone, but I love it. And isn't that the coolest cover image ever? So perfect for this book. If you've read it, you know.