Grilled Shrimp, Patches, and a Book

comments: 56

Stuff 240

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.



a book for my summer list...sounds lovely. have a beautiful weekend alicia!

I need to go dig out my copy of Little, Big now! I'll admit a twinge of jealousy, though, over your cover...

Brilliant patchwork technique! I'm trying this out for sure! Thank you!

Ok, you eat the most tasty food, you have a wonderful house and a beautiful garden, you´ve got a dog that I love, you are an extremely talanted artist..
Yeah, you´re living my dream.
Have a nice weekend!

help me to make sure i have this right BUT i will cut all my squares, affix them to the webbing and then fold over a row at a time to stitch them, right? this is instead of sewing square after square together one at a time? i am SO ALL OVER this!! the square go right side up onto the webbing, yes?

I really like your blog - Just wanted to tell you that!

Cook's Illustrated and the America's Test Kitchen magazines have helped my husband turn into a great cook and i am forever indebted to them.

My dad loves Cook's Illustrated and he just ordered the Cook's Country cookbook and it may be my new favorite cookbook. For the font alone.... It's full of great all American type cooking and follows the same format at the magazine.

I looooove Little, Big. It's been far too long since my last reading - thank you for the reminder - I'm going to pull it out tonight!

Genius! I'm excited to try the technique for zipping through the piecing of squares. I sense some weekend fun coming on...

And dang. Just ordered the book. Had to. Maybe I'll read from it at the first Alicia-ics Anonymous (AA) meeting this summer. :)

My local quilt shop sells interfacing that has the grid drawn in. I have used it to make bags---it does go MUCH faster.

I have just finished two Jane Market bags and now I must make pillows using this method. I really love a quick little project. It's so satisfying. Thanks for all your inspiration.

Is the red chair in your photo from Smith and Hawken? the one with the ottoman that fits under the front? Love that chair, and it shows better on your site than on the catalog website.

Great technique! I don't think I would have bothered to try a patchwork cushion otherwise - I'm so impatient! But this way sounds great - Thanks!

Thank you,thank you for this simple quick method for the patches, I have my beautiful g'sons coming today and for a sleepover tonight, and as soon as they leave tomorrow it's the sewing machine for me. Your blog gives me so much pleasure. xx

Wow, what a nifty technique! just from your description I can visualise both how to do it and how incredibly much faster it will be. I see a patchwork pillow in Acorn Cottage's future.

Thanks also for the reminder about Little Big. My copy is so old and has the earlier, more psychedelic artwork, I think that the image on your cover is just perfect.

Love that patchwork technique! Genius! The shrimp sounds divine. Too bad my Andy hates shrimp. Go figure.

I've read and re-read Little, Big ever since you first posted about it. Loved it too. Just catching up with you and Andy as I have had wireless and computer problems for a while now. Missed you all terribly. The pillows look wonderful, as everything you make always does. Give Miss Clover a belly rub for me. xxoo

Brilliant Alicia! Lovin' the magic squares tip!!! xo

Jan Stafford says: June 05, 2009 at 05:01 PM

I wished you would get your readers to do their favorite reading list again. I got so many great reads from it the last time. I'll definitely check out this book. I'm always looking for new books or old good ones to read.

Oh man, the grilled shrimp looks and sounds fantastic! I gotta start eating dinner before checking in here!

Cooks Illustrated publications are great. Love those how's and why's they answer with their recipes. Great product comparisons, too.

The patchwork method is magically clever!

Have you ever tried Engine Summer by Crowley? It's another good one!


I LOVE Cook's Illustrated. worth every penny - and NO ADs! totally amazing.

That is a great quilting trick. I'm so glad I know that trick now. I bet it'll motivate me to start a sewing project sooner than otherwise!

Thanks, Alicia! You are one of my favorite bloggers.

I luuurve Cook's Illustrated. I knew I had really become a true cook when I requested (and received) a subscription for xmas a year and a half ago. Previous to that I'd been photocopying recipes from the Hallmark subscription. I just love reading about how they came up with the recipes. I think working there and being one of their "testers" would be the bestest job ever.

And AUGH I want a Jane Market Bag SO BAD. Let the site stalking begin.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.