Friday, August 19, 2016

Moving slowly

I've set up the Juki and started using it to quilt this gift piece. Right now I'm slowly stitching in the ditch around all the rectangles and will eventually fill in the cream background.

The Juki is performing very well. The mechanism is both stiffer and more solid than the Kenmore: it takes more effort to turn the hand wheel, but the whole machine is rock steady while running with the motor. The extra space through the harp is wonderful. I can rotate this whole lap quilt through it with ease. It seems to take more work to move the fabric under the embroidery foot, though, even with the presser foot pressure at the lowest setting.

However, that may be a function of my increasingly weak and painful shoulder. I have a rotator cuff injury in my right shoulder that is giving me fits. We've decided to spend a little more time here in Chattanooga so I can do some physical therapy. I don't think quilting is to blame for the injury, which hurts primarily when I lift my arm above shoulder height. While sewing doesn't hurt, it is tiring, so I'm dialing back how much I do each day to give my shoulder as much time and space as it needs to heal. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday stash

This week, a wonderful surprise arrived in the mail: a huge, 11+ pound box of fabric from Sue of Suebee's World! Sue and I discovered each other's blogs right around the time I was traveling through Columbus, MS. It turns out that Sue is moving to nearby Starkville, and when she found out that I sew for Project Linus, she offered to send me some kid's fabrics from her stash to lighten her moving load. 

What a fantastic batch of fabrics she sent me! Clockwise from the lower right, there are stacks of birds, cats and dogs, butterflies, fish, bright blenders, transportation fabrics, and large pieces for backings or backgrounds. What's amazing to me is that those are exactly the themes I collect for kids' quilts. I don't buy princesses, clowns, teddy bears, ice cream, or any number of other subjects, and Sue somehow knew just what I wanted.

Thank you so much, Sue! I can't wait to start using these fun, vibrant prints for Project Linus. I think I hear a Fish Bowl quilt calling my name...

The other fun item that arrived in the mail here in Chattanooga is a new-to-me Juki TL2010Q sewing machine. Wahoo! I've just finished reading the manual and am starting to test all the features on this baby. The Juki is a solid aluminum beast, and weighs about twice as much as The Little Kenmore That Could. The box weighed 40 pounds. The dock hand who carried it down to the boat was sorry he volunteered for the task, I think.

The Juki has several features that the Kenmore lacks that I hope will really simplify some of my quilting: a much bigger harp space for wrangling the bulk of a quilt, a thread cutter, knee lifter for the presser foot, and needle down/up selection. The last one is particularly nice: it automatically stops sewing with the needle in the fabric while doing free motion quilting, so I can re-position my hands without the quilt shifting out of place. The Juki only does straight stitches and free motion, so I'll be keeping the Kenmore for zig zag and other special stitches like button holes. Not that the Kenmore has many choices, but I'll need to use it for machine applique.

In other news, I finished piecing Scrappy Twist, sewing the final three seams using the Juki. Smooooth! Next on my to-do list: baste several WIPs and test out the Juki's free motion quilting chops. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Scrappy progress

I got quite a bit of piecing done on Scrappy Twist while we were still hooked up to power at the dock in Decatur. Here are six of the twelve blocks, hung up in front of our back door for the stained glass effect.

Three more are ready to be added. Backlit like this, it's harder to make out the individual fabrics, but I feel like I'm getting better at creating contrast. Most of the intersections where the squares overlap are distinct and not too "muddy."

The last three blocks are still sitting on the ironing board where I had to stop when my sewing room lacked sufficient air conditioning! We are underway each day on the Tennessee River now, and generally don't run the generator enough to cool that room down. The boat's main engine produces enough power to run the a/c in the pilot house, where we drive the boat all day. We'll be at a dock in Chattanooga later in the week, and I'll probably finish this top then.

The curtain rod holding the pieces in the top two photos used to be installed above our bed, just to display hanging quilts. However, the installation of the pilot house a/c required removing a nice wooden shelf. We wanted to keep the shelf, so Sean installed it above the bed where it now displays folded quilts. That meant the curtain rod needed to be moved, so into the salon/living room it went. Finding wall space on a boat big enough to display any part of a quilt is a real challenge! I'm a bit sad to have lost my large over-bed display area, but am happy with the tradeoff of having a good place to put up bits and pieces for taking photos.

The two bird pictures are just el cheapo canvas artwork from TJ Maxx, and cover some holes in the wall. Eventually I'll probably make a horizontal wall quilt for that space. It seems all my smaller quilts are vertical.

Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Back into a routine

We returned a couple days ago from a very long road trip from Alabama to Virginia and back to sell our motorhome. The gory details are up on our travel blog, but for the record, no quilting was done during that trip. I didn't even bring along some hand sewing, since my right shoulder has really been bothering me lately and I wanted to just let it rest and heal.

Today, though, I sat down in my little studio on the boat and got a few things done. I pieced two more blocks on the Scrappy Twist quilt. They are the top half in the photo above.

I also added asymmetric borders to the Dragonfly quilt. The basic pieced top was only 42" square and I wanted something better sized for an adult lap or couch quilt. Kat suggested making the disappearing four patch blocks "float" in offset borders and I really liked that idea. This photo shows it laid out on our queen sized bed in our very, very dark bedroom, but you get the sense of how big the borders are.

I've decided that I will use the quilting to extend the four patches out into the negative space, using matching cream thread. The effect should be subtle but interesting, I hope!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Baby quilt doing what it was meant to do

This photo makes me so, so happy! There is no greater reward for my work than to see the recipient literally wrapped in the love that went into a quilt. Little Brooklyn is pretty sweet, isn't she? She is the great niece of my stepmom, Kay. 

Kay and Dad were able to visit Brooklyn and her parents this week, and give the quilt to them. Thanks, Kay, for sending these lovely photos. And thanks to Brooklyn's mom and dad for giving me permission to share them. It's always a treat to make a gift for such a happy occasion. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stash serendipity and a finish

Let's start with the finish. This baby quilt is done and ready to be sent off to welcome little Brooklyn Faith in Nebraska! She is the brand new daughter of my stepmother's nephew and his wife. 

Earlier this month when we were visiting California, I asked my stepmom what colors and/or theme new mama-to-be April had chosen for the nursery. The answer was turquoise chevrons with touches of pink and purple. Oh, and maybe there were owls on some of the decorations. 

I knew I had exactly the right fabric: this super cute panel featuring owls, and their friends the hedgehog, the little birdie, and the fox. 

I pieced the chevrons out of coordinating fabrics from my stash, and used a tonal white on cream floral background. The back is pieced with pale turquoise polka dots and a subtle, small chevron print. A darker turquoise binding ties it all together.

I free motion quilted this cute little baby blanket with an overall flower motif that echoes the background fabric. You can see the pretty background fabric in this photo, too. I admit I was pretty darned proud that I was able to pull together this quilt completely from items in my stash. My Dad and Stepmom will be visiting the new baby next week and will have a chance to see this quilt in person, which is also really fun.

In stash accumulation news, I received this big batch last week. The stack on the left contains some brown and gold silk dupioni and some cotton/linen blends. In the last several months, I've tried quilting with both of those types of fabrics and really liked the results, so I decided to keep my eyes peeled for good deals. The linen blends in those citrusy solids will make an interesting piece, I think.

The middle and right hand stacks are all from the same eBay seller. The listing that originally caught my eye contained the solid-reading purples and a couple of nice metallics. With shipping, the price came to around $4 per yard. When I find a seller who is listing largish (2+ yards) pieces at those kinds of prices, I look at their other listings to see if combining the shipping on multiple listings will net even better per yard prices. Sure enough, this seller had some other interesting batches and I loaded up. My net cost came down to closer to $2 per yard and I'm happy with that!

These kinds of mixed lots often contain "weird" fabrics that I would have never given a second glance to in a quilt shop. I'll unpack them and think, "Huh. What will I ever use that for? Maybe I'll resell that later." And yet, they all seem to work their way into some project or another, when I least expect it.

One of the lots contained the four black and white fabrics. I have almost nothing in black and white, as it doesn't usually speak to me as kid-friendly for Project Linus. However, I often admire other quilter's work in black and white, so I added them to my shopping cart. Someday I'll find them useful.

The day after my order arrived, Kat announced the August Covered in Love blocks: disappearing nine patches in black and white with one bright accent color. Woo hoo, I now have EXACTLY the right fabric for those! I sewed up five blocks for her and put them in the mail today. 

Whooooo would have guessed stash serendipity would happen so quickly?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cleaning up and catching up

Yesterday I started on a gift baby quilt for a family member. When I found out that the nursery was decorated in chevron shapes and owls in turquoise with touches of pink and purple, I knew I had just the right fabrics in my stash.

I cut up this panel to remove some of the dark brown edging, which I think makes the design too heavy. I'll sash around all the pieces with off white, and add pink and turquoise chevrons made of half square triangles along the top and bottom.

I also worked on the Pretzel Twist top a little bit, and did some design work on a Christmas quilt. But I kept having to move piles of disorganized fabric from surface to surface and this afternoon I reached my limit of tolerance for the chaos. 

I have a large bag of trimmings, tiny scraps and pieces of batting too small to use. It sits next to the cutting mat so I can toss in little bits as I sweep them off the bed. That bag has gotten quite full, so I sewed up these four pillow covers and stuffed them to make pet bedding. I make the covers out of fabrics that aren't quilt friendly. The kangaroo print is a very thick canvas, the white with maroon dots is a polyester blend, and the brown one on the bottom is a strange, slippery mystery blend of synthetics that the seller claimed was silk. (Nope.) The local no-kill animal shelter said they could use the beds, so I'm happy to donate these. I also had two ratty old bed pillows that I deconstructed and added to the fillings. One turned out to be feather-filled and it made quite a mess! Most of the bag of trimmings is now gone, and about half the cover material, so that cleared up some space in my quilt studio.

I also refolded and put away a bunch of fabric I had pulled for various projects, plus my last batch of eBay orders. Hiding at the bottom of a pile was this red and white orphaned Christmas star, so I emailed Kat and asked if she thought it would be OK for her July star blocks. Her request was for red, white and/or blue stars and I wasn't sure if this one represented the wrong holiday, but she said to send it in and someone would be surprised. I made this star in the fall of 2014, and boy howdy was my piecing bad back then! Lumpy seams, wonky squares, and uneven points. It's good to know I've made progress since then.

Now my sewing space is neat and tidy and I can return to the owl quilt. The baby is due soon, so I'm hoping to finish it within a week.