Thursday, December 10, 2015

Day One of the Twelve Days: Christmas Stollen


For Day 1 of the 12 days of Christmas, I wanted to share something with you that my family requires I make every year during the Christmas season. In fact, I have to make several batches just to satisfy them and then a few more in order to be able to give a few loaves away. I wear my baking hat the majority of December needless to say! 

Stollen (pronounced stolen, as in I stole something) has European roots. The original recipe did not call for almond paste but the filling is what takes this bread to the next level. We eat it for breakfast, we eat it as a snack, and we eat it as a dessert. I have one recommendation, heat it for a few moments in the microwave if you have it a couple of days. The center becomes so gooey and warm, the bread re-awakening to a more tender slice. 

So what is it exactly?

Christmas Stollen is rich, dessert like bread with rum soaked dried fruit. It is filled with an almond filling that takes this from plan old fruit bread to simply delicious. I think that this bread is better than other "stollens" because there is potato water and mashed potato in it. It makes the bread so soft, so tender. This recipe is quite a bit more effort but it is definitely worth it.  If you make it, please share on the blog with me or on facebook at the Threadgatherer's page- I would love to hear what you think or if you have questions. 


1/2 C mashed potato, freshly made
1/2 C potato water, reserved from cooking potatoes 
1 1/4 C scalded Milk, cooled
3 t instant yeast
7 1/4 C bread flour
1 1/4 C butter, room temperature
1 1/3 C sugar
2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t almond extract
2 1/2 C fruitcake mix from King Arthur Flour (this is NOT
the usual fruitcake mix from grocery store)
find at
1/2 C Rum or Brandy
1/2 C slivered almonds or almond flour
1 pkg almond paste 8 oz
1 T beaten egg
1/2 C additional sugar
1/4 t almond extract
 Powdered Sugar

Combine fruitcake mix with rum or brandy and let sit for several hours.  May use apple juice if you don't want to use alcohol, but the alcohol cooks out in the oven.

Sponge:  Combine potato water, mashed potatoes, scalded milk, instant yeast and 2 cups flour.  Combine and form a smooth dough.  Let rest, covered for 2 hours.
Combine all the sponge, the sugar, and extracts.  Stir in 1/2 of the  softened butter.  Using a dough hook attachment mix well.  Combine the salt and 2 C of  flour, then add to dough, mixing well.  Add remaining  soft butter.  Add remaining flour (you may not need all of the flour).  You want a soft dough that does not stick to your hands.   Add fruit mix to the dough.  Add either the slivered almonds or the almond flour at this time.  Knead dough well and put into a greased bowl and cover with a towel and let rise for a couple hours.  You can cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit overnight at this point.  If you do put it in refrigerator, then allow it to come up to nearly room temperature before proceeding.
While dough is resting, combine the almond paste, 1 T of beaten egg, 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 t almond extract.  Form a stiff dough consistency and divide  4 parts.  Form logs and  wrap in plastic wrap.  Put into refrigerator until ready to form loaves.
Divide dough into 4 parts.  Roll into a rectangle about 7 x 9" and place one filling log in the center.  Fold over the dough lengthwise, with the top edge set back by about half an inch.  Press firmly to combine the dough where folded over.  Repeat with remaining 3 dough parts.  Place on a parchment lined pan.  Cover and let dough rise for about 45 minutes.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  The Stollen won't double in size but will look somewhat 'puffy'.  Bake for about 30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes.  You want it to be golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes on rack.  While still warm brush loaf with melted butter and dust heavily with powdered sugar.  Cool completely and then re-dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Two New Loves

Who would think that I would have these two items as 'new loves'. . .
I really like Heinz' new Sriracha Ketchup  - so much that even if I have two other bottles of regular ketchup in the refrigerator I'll open a new bottle of the Srirascha if I don't have any remaining.  The other new love is my IPhone.  Just got it today! 

I've been using a hand-me-down phone from Maritta,  one I could barely get past 'just learning how to answer', and don't ask me about putting the phone in 'airplane mode' and my issues getting it where it would ring again while on a business trip. . . .  I told Maritta I wasn't going to get a new phone unless it was 'totally free' - I lied, and I love it thus far. 

I can already turn it off and on by myself and add contacts!  Also, it has that feature that means the kids won't get such cryptic text messages from me anymore since I can 'talk' and the phone will 'type' it for me.  I do believe that I will have to  either occasionally type my own so that they will maybe get my usual text message where out of 20 words, two or three might be real words and the rest - well I knew what I was telling them.  I guess in a pinch I can just make up a few really far out words since I think the phone will type what I speak - guess I'd best go practice that to see if it really works.  I wouldn't want anyone to think the real Cece or Mom had disappeared.  

Darn it anyway, I just learned that I missed my opportunity to be on Ellen - Mariah said she was having a program on text messages from Moms.  I could have definitely won.

Tomorrow I'll try my best to get off the phone and back to the dye pots!

Until Later,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Color Your World Wonderful Club

Over the years one of the top questions we've been asked by shop owners and retail customers has been "Where do you get your inspiration for your colors?".  Our answer has changed over the years, from looking at the particular thread line to see what color families are missing to finding inspiration from a picture, or a theme we are doing for an upcoming tradeshow.  We have had so much fun creating colors.  We would like to offer you lovers of the needle arts the chance to say "that new Thread Gatherer Color, it was my creation!".  We are starting a limited edition Silk 'n Colors thread club with colors each month designed by you! 
 The club will be called 'Coloring My World Wonderful'
This is how it will work.  The first twelve people (or shops) who sign up will get the chance to choose (in the order you sign up) one month out of the year for 2016.  These twelve people will take inspiration from nature, a photo,  place  or other inspiration such as gift wrap etc.  Send us your inspiration (with at least 3 colors) via email or the mail,  (ideas:  paint chips, a snippet of fabric,  a picture from a magazine) by the 15th of the month prior to your month. The official first shipment comes out January 2016.
 Thus, if you have January as your month we must have your color choices no later than Dec 15th, and if your month is February 2016 we must have your color inspiration no later than January 15th and so on.  We will create one multi-color and two other colors (probably solids) to compliment the multi.  Each person in the club will receive 3 limited edition colors each month.  The club will be a year long commitment.  The retail special price of this club is $15 per month plus shipping charges via USPS.  In the US this will be $2.  International customers will pay actual shipping charges.  We will include a special gift four times during the year with your club. 
 All colors created  become our property and we reserve the right to name the colors and add any color to our regular line.  There is a small fee of $5 to join the club. You will be required to sign a contract for a year ($15.00 per month plus shipping for a year).  Email Cece at: to join using subject line of email:  Color My World Wonderful Club.  Shops may also join the club,  and we will advise you of your wholesale price when you email or phone us.  There are many color inspiration boards on Pinterest if you need assistance in choosing your colors.   Here is an example of a color inspiration board:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fiona's Beautiful Stitching

I loved the idea my daughter, Maritta posted on our facebook page inviting you, our best customers, to send us an email with a design stitched using our Silk n Colors.

I opened an email from Fiona McKinnon of Melbourne, Australia with this picture of her beautiful work.  It is a design of Tracy Horner's of Ink Circles, called Solitaire.  Fiona stitched it using our SNC 102 Grape Soda on 32 ct. Belfast Linen.  I'm sure you agree that the color is simply stunning in this design!

There is a touching story regarding this stitching of this piece in Fiona's words:  "I started it for my boss's wife, she fell ill last August, and sadly passed away in February.  Far too young and a very gentle, kind and loving lady.  I finished it last month, had it framed, and gave it to Peter, in loving memory of Ann Elizabeth Carpenter, he was very pleased."

Fiona wrote:  "I love the rich colors in The Thread Gatherer range, my favorite colors are purples, pinks and reds."  She is working on another Ink Circles design using our Regal Orchid color.  Fiona says visiting lovely needlework stores in the U.S. in on her bucket list.  Thanks Fiona for sharing with us.  Her work is the perfect example of taking one of our colors you love and using it in any design of your choosing which then makes the design uniquely yours! 

Still dyeing, threads that is!
Until Later,

Saturday, April 4, 2015

For the Birds. . .

I'm all 'for the birds' as they say.  We are enjoying  four little baby chicks that my son Gage and his girlfriend Tyna have started raising.  I know being a 'chicken sitter' will be both entertaining and interesting, not to mention those delicious eggs.  I'd love to have backyard chickens. . . .getting a husband to agree. . . .a different story.

There seems to be no lack of birds to stitch in either needlepoint, cross stitch, or any other needle art you can think of.  So let the love affair with birds continue with a picture of an owl canvas by Charley Harper stitched by a very talented needle artist - Tess from Hawaii.  Thanks for sharing your picture with me.   Tess used Oriental Linen for the body of the owl and Silken Chenille for the Moth.

The texture these threads offer is what makes them so beautiful in this piece.  Another Needle Artist from Austria is Gina from  Here is a picture of a piece of art that she stitched.
I love her use of our Flax 'n Colors, Silk 'n Colors and Oriental Linen.  Another bird, this time the front of a hand made book I am working on:
The branches are hand dyed silk carrier rods (silk cocoons that didn't reel off properly for silk thread. Finally, since we are just before Easter and still thinking chickens and birds - our dyed easter eggs for this year.
Wishing you all a Happy Easter and Spring!
Still dyeing.  . . .eggs and threads!  Cece

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Remembering Gentler Times

Laying on my stomach to smell the early spring hyacinths. . .
Fresh churned vanilla ice cream on a hot summer evening. . .
Playing with the basket of empty glass medicine bottles & caps,  turned into a child's toy to keep little hands busy. . .
Sitting near Grandma's knee as she crocheted, quilted or simply stitched with a needle and thread.

{p.s. Keep reading to find out about our '1,000 likes drawing'}

I just love these old needlework items that belonged to my Paternal Grandmother, Bessie Maybelle Springer Allen.  I remember watching her from my earliest moments as she sewed, crocheted and quilted, always a needle & thread in hand. I was deeply fascinated by the creation of so many lovely things.  Many hours were spent sitting at her knee and simply watching.

Here is another picture of items in a shadow box of her needlework tools.  I just love the way she threaded the buttons on a string!
My Sister made me the shadow box and included a picture of me with Grandma at about 18 months.

 So, thank you Grandma. . .

Now, on to the choosing of our recipients for the gifts celebrating 1,000 likes on The Thread Gatherer's Facebook page.   Please comment (on facebook) who or what inspired your interest in the needle arts. It will be interesting to read your answers.  We will see how many comments we get over two days time and I'll have my daughters who work with me choose 5 numbers from the 1 - ??? comments we have.  We will put these numbers on pieces of paper in a jar and draw one at a time.  The first four will receive a limited edition Silken Pearl 15/3 thread, a Silk 'n Colors thread and a Silken Ribbons 7mm.  The remaining number in the jar will receive our '1,000 likes' prize of 10 Silk 'n Colors (a rainbow of colors) and the same items mentioned above.  We have to limit winners to within the US, unless out of country winners are willing to pay the additional shipping costs to get your packages to you.   I'll post on facebook the comment number and your name so you can email me privately your shipping address. 

Good luck to everyone and I hope you enjoy sharing with us who taught or inspired you to love the needle arts.  May you be inspired to share with another the joy of working with needle & thread.