Tuesday, August 14, 2018

And the painted ponies go up and down

Greetings from Nantucket Island! This quilt is made from a panel called "Painted Ponies," and it's a finish for Wrap a Smile.

I wanted to try a panel bordering technique that I saw on a free Benartex pattern called "Cool Cats." The octagon purple border is made of eight half rectangle triangles, and makes a neat frame for the floral horses. Everything inside that purple is part of the panel.

To round out the rest of the quilt, I pieced up four big hearts using Cluck Cluck Sew's free block pattern. So fast and easy. I used some fun novelty prints for the hearts, including balloons, rainbow trees and feathers. So I'm calling this one Horse Feathers.

I didn't manage to get a photo of the feather fabric heart, but here it is in one of the little border squares. You can also see the binding fabric, a multi colored butterfly print with a purple background. I usually cut my bindings 2.5" wide, but tried 2.25" this time for a tighter finish.

The back is pieced from a chunk of dark yellow and a groovy psychedelic star print.

Here's a closeup of the stars. Aren't they fun? And I was able to put one of the Wrap A Smile labels on this quilt myself. Now I'm an official "International Quilter," I guess!

The quilting is an all over stipple for cuddly softness. The lighting in Nantucket Harbor was briefly good enough to show the texture. We were anchored a loooooong way from shore, as you can see by all the tiny boats in the background. Mostly it was drizzly and foggy during our visit this week. I call that "Quiltin' Weather."

The HRT bordering technique was pretty straightforward and should be easy to adapt to other panel sizes, so I'm glad to have this in my tool kit. These ponies are 10" finished, so the HRTs were 5" finished. The only slightly tricky part was wrapping my head around how the panel borders and heart blocks lined up with the cornerstones.

I also wanted to share this lovely box of goodies that I received from a quilty friend. A bright stack of fat quarters, tons of scraps including dogs, owls, and bears, oh my! Plus a fat eighth bundle of sea critters, so cute! And can you see the little styluses next to the bears? Rose makes those herself and they are so clever. One is a black cat and the other is a funny lady with wild hair. For my non-quilting readers, a stylus is used to guide fabric under the needle so your fingers don't have to get too close. Very useful. Thank you so much, Rose!

And finally, it's the annual parade of Pets on Quilts over at Lily Pad Quilting. Angel has been enjoying her hexagon quilt lately, after snubbing it for many months. Who knows why these preferences come and go with cats? I'm just glad that she's been feeling better. You can see where they shaved her tummy for the ultrasound. Her fur is growing back slowly but surely, and her appetite is good. We bought her one of those pet drinking fountains and she really likes it, so I think she's also drinking more water for better kidney health. Be sure to drop by Lily Pad to see lots more cute animals on quilts!

Friday, August 10, 2018

A finish and a tour

I cleaned up my studio last week and decided it was a good time to take a few photos and invite you in for a tour. A number of people have recently asked to see how I quilt on a boat. I wrote about my studio a couple of years ago here, but there have a been a few changes.

But first, the finish! This super scrappy string quilt top was pieced almost a year ago. I just recently decided to add navy borders to make it the right size for the double/full size bed in our guest stateroom. The mattress sits on a platform and is surrounded by a built in railing to keep it from moving while we are underway. I wanted the quilt to just fit inside the railing. I'm happy with how the bright yellow inner border shows along the edges.

The guest stateroom is also my quilting studio. It's pretty small, with about 2 feet on average around each side of the double bed. It's in the bow of the boat, so the room is a little triangular, narrowing significantly up near the head of the bed. I wish I could take better photos of the space, but the combination of dark wood walls, tiny (8" x 18") windows, and no way to step back for perspective makes taking pictures difficult.

The bed itself is my main work space. At the foot of the bed, it is about counter height. By adding a piece of thin plywood over the firm mattress, I have a good surface for my cutting mat and folding ironing board. I really like how I don't have to bend over to cut and iron. I also like having room for a 24"x36" mat. The iron is cordless, which is a good choice for a moving vessel. Less chance of getting tangled or caught if the boat lurches.

My Juki TL2010Q sewing machine sits on a small built in table on the starboard side of the room. The table is covered with dark brown vinyl so it's hard to see but easy to clean. It's wedged in tightly and bolted to the wall, and can be removed if we have guests. The surface of the bed acts like an extension of the table, supporting pieces as I quilt them. There's just enough room for me to sit on an adjustable stool in front of the machine, but not enough room for the stool to have a back. That's OK, I try to only spend about 20 minutes at a time sewing, then move to ironing or other activities.

Most of my tools are hanging on the wall next to the Juki for easy access. The rectangular brown basket holds the stuff I use the most often. The glass door to the right in this photo is the en suite shower, which is where I store batting in big plastic bags. There's another window in the shower, so I get a little extra light that way.

My stash is stored in every nook and cranny of the room, including inside the small attached bathroom. See the stainless steel sink? This is my scrap strings and crumbs storage area. Spray baste, starch and an extra iron are stored under the sink with the toilet paper and bottles of wine. No wasted space on a boat!

Here is the port side of the room. You can see some of the plastic storage boxes to keep out dust and salt air out of the fabric. There's a spring loaded curtain rod running between two shelves under the window to hold WIPs. More of those live on hangers behind the door and in my clothes closet. Because really, who needs more clothes?

Two of the four drawers under the bed contain ziplock bags with fabric sorted by color or theme. Equipment under the bed (the bow thruster) generates black graphite dust, so this fabric needs extra protection. Keep those ziplocks zipped!

These two larger bins on the floor next to the bed are all my yardage bigger than fat quarters. The woven basket crammed in behind that holds pieces large enough to use as backings.

The wall space is extremely limited because of all the doors and cabinets, but I hang up my frequently used rulers wherever there's a bit of room. 3M Command hooks work well and don't damage the woodwork. There's no way I can have a design wall, so I use the top of the queen size bed in the master stateroom.

So there you go, my little nautical studio! I love having all my quilting stuff close at hand and spend many happy hours here. It may be small and salty and constantly moving, but that gives me a built in excuse for any wobbly free motion stitching. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The wheels on the bus go round and round

Boy, these little 40" x 50" quilts stitch up fast! Especially when you start with a panel with big blocks like this. I actually started with three panels, all in the same design but three slightly different colorways. They were sales samples from a Robert Kaufman line, I think. 

The panels were raggedly cut on the edges, so I trimmed off any blocks that didn't contain a complete vehicle. Then I bordered each panel with a black and white stripe and sewed them into rows. Red sashing and binding picked up one of the colors used in each panel.

All the partial panels got pieced together willy-nilly improv style and trimmed into two long strips that I put on the back with a chunk of orange stripe fabric. The quilting is just simple wavy lines in bright orange thread, running the same direction as the vehicles. They kind of look like those motion lines you see in cartoons.

This close up of the back shows the partial panels and the color variations. One bike has a white background and the other has off white, for instance. The third colorway uses a pale gray. When all mixed together, though, it seems to work as a single piece. That's good, because I needed all the fabric to make a complete quilt!

The colors are so vibrant, but I can't seem to capture them in today's high overcast light. But the blue matches our chair cushions nicely and the orange goes with our safety line bag. It's the little things that count.

Many of my quilting friends don't know that before we lived on the boat, we lived for nine years in a bus. So when I showed this quilt to Sean, he immediately pointed at the buses in the bottom left corner. Once a bus guy, always a bus guy! So I named this little quilt Buses Etc. I hope it will comfort a little person through Wrap a Smile.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


That's what I'm calling this quilt top, Delighted. I followed the daily instructions on Confessions of a Fabric Addict over the last 2 weeks or so to make it. Sarah's original design, called "Rejoice," was created using holiday fabrics for her 12 Days of Christmas in July blog hop. 

I wanted to make "Rejoice," but I have enough Christmas quilts, including two UFOs hanging in the closet. So I decided to try something different. All my red scraps were still sitting out from working on this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

And I had plenty of light neutral fabrics to cut up using my Tri-Recs rulers.

By simply switching in turquoises, teals and aquas for the green in Sarah's pattern, the colors shifted away from Christmas and toward a fresh palette. Coincidentally, all those bluish greenish scraps were still sitting out from June's RSC blocks, so the need to clean up my studio might have influenced my color choices. Ahem. 

In this close up, you can see some of the scrappy fabrics that I used. The lighting is funky because it was hanging in front of a closed yet still brightly backlit set of blinds. I find going completely scrappy with a pattern to be a real exercise in trusting the process. Is this dark teal too dark? This red looks kinda orange. Breathe in, sew blocks, breath out. It's just fabric! Each individual block looked pretty mish-mashy, keep breathing...

In the end, Sarah's cool design and its secondary patterns all appeared like magic in the final layout. I may have actually squealed a little when I finished the final borders. Rejoice! I'm Delighted with the results! I'll share more photos once I get it quilted.

Meanwhile, back in the land of charity quilts, I whipped up this little number. The Sunshine online quilt guild has a monthly block lotto, and the colors for July are pink and green. I don't really care for pink, but I dutifully pieced up some blocks (Karen, I put pink and green postage stamp borders on those applique flowers you sent, worked great. Forgot to take photos, dang it!)

As I worked away with the lotto colors, I thought, "I have a lot of pink fabric for someone who doesn't like pink. Maybe I should sew it ALL up with some green and get rid of it." So I picked a dozen friendly fat quarters and whipped out some offset square-in-a-square blocks (Sunshine calls 'em Mendota blocks.) A few bigger chunks of pink quickly became a back and I found a piece of batting just the right size.

Inspired by this feathery print on the back, I quilted it with floppy feathers in pink thread. Hot pink in the bobbin, light pink on top. I tried the hot pink on top, but the thread broke many many times and I just gave up. Pink doesn't like me, either I guess!

When I brought it upstairs after quilting, I showed Sean the backing first. He said, "Huh. That's a weird one with all that pink and one green stripe." So now I think of this little quilt as "The Weird One With The Green Stripe." And even though it contains much pink, it hardly made a dent in my pink stash. However, the piece slowly grew on me and now I actually really like it. I might make more pink quilts, who knows! 

TWOWTGS will go to Wrap-A-Smile, where hopefully a small child won't think it's weird at all, just soft and warm and cuddly.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Christmas in July in the Big Apple

Hello, hello! Since the flurry of finishes in my last post, I haven't had too much to blog about. We moved the boat all the way from Palm Beach to New York City in one long hop. The seas were very calm and I was able to sew a little bit each day. I also straightened things up in the studio and did some ironing with all the extra power the boat engine puts out while we're moving.

We arrived in New York in time for Independence Day, some nice fireworks, and the announcement of red as the RSC color of the month. Since then, I've been puttering away in the studio, doing little projects. I worked on my red blocks, made a couple secret project blocks, a whole bunch of miscellaneous crumb blocks, and some red, white and blue star blocks for Kat's latest Covered in Love drive. It's all felt rather patriotic.

We also had a major medical crisis with this little nubbin. After months of being away from any kind of veterinary care, she wisely waited until she was in The City That Never Sleeps to get sick. After two nights in an emergency animal hospital, she's recovering slowly from triaditis. Poor Angel, they shaved her belly for an ultrasound and she gets nasty medicines twice a day. But she hasn't used up all nine lives yet!

We are finally in a place where I can receive mail, so I had all our accumulated packages sent at once. I won a gift certificate to Stitch Stash Diva from Sandra's Playtime Plus QAL and bought these nice basics. At the top of the stack are two yards of black with subtle metallic polka dots, very fancy! Thank you so much to SSD and MMM for my PrizePrizePrize!

I also finally got to see my prize for participating in the Hands2Help charity challenge. This is a bundle of 30 super cute fat quarters from Moda. The fabric line is Hometown Christmas. Thank you so much, Sarah and Moda! All of Sarah's sponsors were so generous this year.

Karen of KaHolly sent me some orphan blocks, left behind after one of her friends passed away. They are about a half dozen machine appliqued flowers with beading details. Most of the charities I support ask that our quilts have no beads, buttons or other loose embellishments. So I'll remove the beads on these, clean them up a bit with some thread painting, and find a new home for them. They may end up with Quilts Beyond Borders. Thanks, Karen!

In addition to my freebies, two big boxes of fabric that I bought on eBay also arrived. This batch is all fun food themed pieces, including fruits, tea cups and silverware. Another box contained over 20 yards of bright blenders. After almost five months without fabric shopping, it was great to recharge the ol' stash. And it might be the season to celebrate the 4th of July, but it sure feels like Christmas here when all the boxes arrive!

Speaking of Christmas, Sarah is running her annual 12 Days of Christmas in July blog hop and quilt along. The quilt she designed for the QAL really spoke to me, so I decided to join in. She shows it in several colorways, including classic green and red, patriotic RWB, and frosty winter blues. My pile of red scraps were already sitting out for RSC, so I decided to do an all scrappy version.

The pattern uses the Tri-Recs rulers that I already own. Here are the side triangles cut for the scrappy neutral background.

I decided to make my third color turquoise/teal/aqua. I don't really need another Christmas quilt, and while I really like the patriotic/QOV look of red, white, and blue, something about aqua and red together is just so bright and fresh. This was last month's color for RSC, so all my scraps were already neatly pressed and organized. After a few happy hours of trimming, I'm all ready for the next steps of the QAL.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Palm Beach interlude

We are anchored in Lake Worth, between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, and happy to be back in the United States. One of our first tasks ashore was to visit a Publix supermarket, where we wandered around touching all the familiar food items. "Look! Ghirardelli chocolate! Seven different kinds of tomatoes! A bag of Chex Mix for less than $7!!" Life is good.

In between visits to first world establishments (a real Italian restaurant! free public transportation!) I've had plenty of time to work on some more of my UFOs. This one was actually finished back at Dudley's dock, but didn't make it into my retreat post. This is my Ernie quilt, inspired by Rose and finally all quilted up using simple stitch in the ditch. 

I debated whether to add more quilting in the homespuns, and I'm still a bit on the fence even after a pass through the washer and dryer. The horizontal pieces are 1.5" finished, so there's certainly enough quilting to hold it together. Does it need anything more fancy? Hmm.

The backing is some big chunks of the coral and green, plus a stripe of the border fabric. This one is going to Covered in Love.

This one is also bound for CiL. The blocks are called Old Italian, made with Anita Grossman Solomon's method from one of her books. I only made enough of them for a 36"x48" quilt, so it needed a nice wide border to get it up to CiL size. 

The colors in this top seem very 1980s to me: dusty blue and pink and maroon. So I've named it '80s Flashback. Or maybe that should be "Flashdance"? Anyway, I quilted the center with orange peels that barely show in the busy, busy fabrics.

In the border, I decided to practice big feathers. All that wide space called for something interesting, and I've been wanting to spend some concentrated time on feathers. A blending blue thread hides any wibbles and wobbles.

The quilting shows up better on the back, and I'm pretty happy with it. I had to pick out a couple of pleaty bits, but mostly it went smoothly. These are sort of beginner's feathers, what Angela Walters calls "basic" as opposed to "custom" feathers. 

Here's an overall shot of the back, which I pieced from some fabrics that are kinda sorta in the same '80s color scheme. Both the stripe and the blue border fabrics were donated to CiL, so I wanted to use them together in this quilt.

DH Sean really likes the colors in this one, but when I asked if we should just keep it, he said, "Um, no." Since I haven't been able to ship out anything in over four months, the boat is suffering from Deadly Quilt Backup and there are piles of quilts everywhere. I suspect he wants to see them gone, gone, gone.

Here are two more that I finished in the last week or so. They are small ones for Wrap a Smile, only 40"x50", so they stitched up speedy quick. They are literally half the size of the Covered in Love quilts. I get a lot of comments about how many quilts I finish, so it's good to keep in mind that the little ones go together super fast. By the way, that's tony Palm Beach in the background, with a median home value of $1,166,200. Our anchorage is free, bwa ha ha!

This piece is made from a charm pack of Kaffe Fasset Collective fabrics in soft, spring colors. I sashed and bordered it with a pretty green blender. All the fabrics are really light and soft, almost voiles. This one got a lot of petting and patting.

The backing is an odd garden veggie and greenery fabric, also a voile. It has leaves and leeks and broccoli on it. Several small pieces of this were donated to me by a gal on eBay who was clearing out her stash. I had no idea what I'd do with leek fabric, but it looks really nice on the back of this little quilt, which I'm  calling Peeking Through the Garden Lattice.

The quilting is quite simple, straight lines paralleling the piecing and extending into the border, done with my walking foot. An older, more traditional lavender with twee flowers made a nice binding.

Finally, this is Lazy Rail Fence. Rail fence designs are made by sewing strips of fabric together, but lazy rail fences simply use pre-printed stripes. I had lot of small chunks of bright striped fabrics so I just stitched them together in alternating directions. 

I think it actually looks quite festive, and it was a good scrap buster. I quilted it in bright yellow thread in a liberated orange peel. "Liberated" is quilting talk for "don't look too closely because things are a bit wonky." And "wonky" is quilting talk for "Dang, that's crooked!" But it's wonky on PURPOSE, so that's okay.

This quilt is also destined for Wrap a Smile, and it will hopefully comfort a small child undergoing cleft palate surgery. To keep it child-friendly and extra cheerful, I backed it with the last of my animal butts fabric. There are very few children who aren't endlessly amused by butts, so I'm confident it will be well-received.

I've finally been able to wash and dry all these quilts, but shipping them off to their destinations still has to wait at least another week. Tomorrow we are heading right back out into the Atlantic to head north. Palm Beach is nice, but heat, humidity and hurricanes make summer kinda the worst time to be in Florida. There is an excellent weather window that will hopefully allow us to take the boat directly to New York in one straight shot, so we're gettin' while the gettin' is good. I'll be completely out of range of internet for a week, but promise to respond to your comments and visit your blogs when I get back into coverage. (As always, if you're curious about our status while we're on long offshore passages, you can check the boat's Twitter page.  We update that using our limited bandwidth satellite phone for short "all's well" messages. You don't need to have a Twitter account to view the status updates.)

Cross your fingers that the ocean is calm enough for me to be able to sew!