Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Testing the space limits

I am still sewing away in our little borrowed RV, but boy am I ready to move back onto the boat. This week I had to stop several projects due to space limitations--I just couldn't wrap my head around how to proceed.

First semi-finish is this hexagon quilt. I started it in the fall of 2015 in a class that I took at the big Houston quilt show. For reasons I won't go into here, I didn't enjoy the class and the mostly cut out pieces of this quilt have been languishing in a plastic ziplock baggie. In a fit of purge quilting (sewing just to get the fabric out of one's stash and one's life), I finished piecing the center, happily using the blue polka dots to fill in the edges. After all, those hexies and triangles have to stop somewhere. 

The dots were a great match with the wild, mostly Kaffe fabrics, so I was excited to stitch up a nice border with it, too. First problem: I don't have any surfaces long enough to accurately cut pieces that long. My cutting mat/ironing pad here on the RV is only 12"x18" and you can see in this photo that it only fits on top of the stove. Oh well, I muddled through the first two sides. Second problem: I miscalculated the size of the dang borders anyway, and ran out of polka dots! ARGH!!

Fortunately, the boatyard's ladies' room is a pleasant two-minute walk from the RV, and a stroll through the crisp evening air was enough to clear my head and provide a solution. I decided to cut some more triangles and have them poke up into the polka dots, leaving just barely enough to finish the top and bottom. It's a little odd to have the triangles cut off flat on the left and right, and fully pointed on the top and bottom, but we'll call it a Deliberate Design Decision! Much better than Completely Clueless Cutting! Now it needs another border, but that will have to wait until I'm back at my big 24"x36" cutting mat in the boat. No name for this quilt yet.

Speaking of the boat, the yard has finished most of the painting and moved her out of the painting shed and out into the open. In this photo, she is hanging from the mobile blue frame, called a travel lift. She's also swaying gently two feet above the hard ground, always a bit alarming. Still lots of work to be done, but we're hoping to move back aboard this week.

Which is good, because we're both sick of this view. This is taken from the back bedroom, looking forward. My Juki is on the dining table, and all my bins of fabric fill the bunk bed space above the driving compartment. Poor Sean has been relegated to the loveseat. Even his "coffee table" is one of my fabric bins! He's been a pretty good sport, and we're so grateful to our friend who loaned us the RV, but it's time to move on...

Back to quilting subjects, ahem. My next project was inspired by my stash of vegetable fat quarters. Along with the corn, cabbage, asparagus and zucchinis above, I also have Brussels sprouts, peppers, basil, and carrots.

I looked at several white and off white fabrics to use as a background. But then this bright yellow-green fabric with water drops/bubbles leapt out of my stash. I think it looks like the veggies are being rinsed before chopping. Perfect! So perfect that I had exactly 2.5" of it left over.

Even the fabric trimmings look like julienned vegetables!

Here's the top. The pattern is Majestic Mountains, also called Scrappy Mountain Majesties. This one will also get a couple more borders to bring it up to twin sized, and it will be my donation to the International Institute of St. Louis for the Hands2Help challenge. I think I'll do a thin orange inner border and a dark green outer border. This quilt is named Veggie Mountain.

After wrangling Veggie Mountain through the Juki for the last couple of days, I wanted to take a break and sew up something small. Time to work on the March/April block drive for Covered in Love. This block is called "Grandad's Shirts," and it required me to learn two brand-new techniques. 

The first technique is pleats in the center square of each block. This photo shows all four of the blocks I made, and you can see the pleats in the lighter blue squares. You can also see the vintage-themed fabrics I used, with old fashioned telephones, trains and VW buses. There are also some dictionary pages, with some appropriate words like "memory" and "forgive." The second technique is partial seams, which aren't very hard but I just had never done them before. I'm happy to have new tools in my kit! Thanks for the inspiration, Kat.

Linking up with Sew Some Love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hands 2 Help 2017

Confessions Of A Fabric Addict

Sarah, who writes Confessions of a Fabric Addict, announced this week is the start of the annual Hands 2 Help (H2H) quilting charity. Each year she selects several charitable organizations and quilters from all over the world make new quilts to donate.

This year there are three charities. International Institute of St. Louis helps refugees and new immigrants integrate into American life and promotes ethnic and cultural diversity. They are asking for twin sized quilts, and suggest patriotic or nature themed quilts. Happy Chemo provides quilts for people of all ages who are undergoing chemotherapy and quilts can be any size from 48"x48" to 65"x88". And finally, Camp Hobe is a summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings. Their quilts should be 45"x60" or larger and geared toward kids six and older.

Last year I made two quilts for one of the H2H charities, Covered in Love. This year, my goal is to make one quilt for each of the three charities plus at least a quilt top for Covered in Love as well. I will continue to support Project Linus, but my next quilt for them may wait until after the H2H challenge ends in early June. 

I don't really like to work to a deadline, since there are so many unpredictable things in a boat's schedule. But charity work makes my heart sing, and Sarah has done a huge amount of work to set up this challenge. She was particularly moved this year to find a refugee support group that could handle the distribution of (potentially!) scores of quilts, and I know that took some sleuthing on her part. She has also lined up lots of sponsors who are encouraging us with fun prizes. Plus, she has guest bloggers, linky parties, tutorials, and an unflagging enthusiasm for her own prolific charity work that is contagious. I kinda want to be Sarah when I grow up!

So I'm going to buckle down and sew up some quilts. I have several WIPs (works in progress) that will be good matches and I'm especially eager to make some more bright, cheerful kids' quilts. You know that's right in my wheelhouse! The twin size for International Institute will be my biggest challenge, as that's a pretty large piece to quilt on the Juki. But, heck, if a family can leave everything they know behind, travel to America with almost no possessions, searching for a better life, then I can certainly put on my big girl panties and make 'em a large quilt.

If you're a quilter, I hope you'll consider joining in. Most folks choose one of the charities and donate one quilt, so you have plenty of time to get that finished by the June 2nd deadline. Sarah's introductory post for the event is here, and you can sign up at that link. If you sign up before March 18th, you're eligible for prizes, but you can join in later, too.

If you're not participating, you can help by leaving an encouraging comment or two on the blogs of those who are. I love reading your comments, and try to respond to each one. (If you don't hear back from me, you might be a no-reply commenter. Click here to see what that means and how you can fix it.)

I'm currently traveling back to New Orleans from a five day trip for my nephew's wedding in Canada. Right before this trip, I had a bad cold and didn't sew for days. So I apologize for the lack of new photos and using last year's H2H photos in this post. But the good news is that there's a good chance we'll be able to move back into the boat next week and I'll be back in my quilting studio. Hooray! That means I can start basting up quilt sandwiches and finish up some of the tops I've made while confined to our tiny, temporary RV quarters. Good thing, because my Hands are rarin' 2 Help!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Finding inspiration online

I've been working on several different projects this week, all of which were inspired by things I found online.

Kystal at Let's Quilt Something posts quite a number of nice, free patterns, and I downloaded one called "Falling Petals" a couple months ago. It seems to be removed from her site now, but this is a screen shot of the cover illustration. I just love leaf shapes!

I had a jelly roll of Autumn Splendor by Barb Tourtillotte for Clothworks that I thought would look quite nice in this pattern. I decided to modify it a bit and make the corners curved instead of 45 degree cuts. So I started sewing strip sets together. Unfortunately, the pattern requires the strips to be at least 42" long, and my roll was at least a half inch short. Odd, and frustrating! Instead of being able to get four 10.5" cuts per strip, I had to trim everything down to 10 inches. Not a big problem, but I was flustered enough that I didn't pay attention to which corners I was lopping off. The pattern really calls for the upper right and lower left corners to be cut, when oriented with the strips running horizontally. I did mine randomly and so I wasn't able to get the nice alternating block design in Krystal's drawing.

While I'm quite happy with the individual curvy cornered leaf shapes, I just couldn't find a layout that looked right. I do love the rich autumnal colors of this line. But for now, I'm putting these blocks away to ferment.

Next, I pulled out a pretty panel by Chong A Hwang, who designs for Timeless Treasures fabrics. The panel and its coordinating line are called "Marbella," and feature lush florals and birds in black, turquoise and purple with metallic gold accents. Very rich!

My inspiration is this design that I found on Pinterest ages ago. I have no idea what the sizes are on the original design, but my goal was to use up most of my Marbella fat quarters, so the proportions are slightly different. If you would like to purchase the actual pattern, you can find it here on Shibori Dragon.

All the Marbella pieces had black backgrounds. So to add some contrast, I used some gold metallic for the panel "frame," and tonal turquoise and purple blenders for the background and central border. The way this is pieced, with long skinny rectangles around the outside of the panel, is like adding many borders, so it was good practice in keeping everything square so the edges didn't "grow" and get wavy.

Finally, I saw some cute scrappy butterflies on Cathy's Sane, Crazy, Crumby Quilting blog yesterday and immediately had a Squirrel! moment. Gotta make some right now! Cathy's butterfly wings require two sizes of HSTs and I had HSTs from the Astrodelic quilt last week, plus slightly larger HST scraps from some older project kicking around.  And the colors coordinated...perfect! Eight fun little flutterbies. I have no idea where these little fellas will land, but I'll add sashing to square them up when they find their forever quilty home.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Astrodelic Stars

In October of 2014, I came across this pattern, called Astrodelic. It is a free download from Art Gallery Fabrics. At the time, it seemed way more difficult than my skills could handle, so I tucked it away in a folder. 

I've looked at the pattern several times in the last two and a half years, yet it always intimidated me. I recently bought a fat quarter bundle of Multiple Blessings by Caroline Simas, and the colors are similar to the ones in the pattern example, so I read it over again. Hmm, this doesn't seem all that complicated. It's really just four big blocks, and there are only two color combos. The piecing went quickly and I finished the top in about five hours!

However, I'm not thrilled with the result. The fabrics are very pretty and the colors are sweet for a girly baby quilt, but I didn't pay enough attention to value. Several very similar fabrics are right next to each other, and the pale yellow almost disappears against the Kona snow background. The small brown diagonal squares work well, but the pink ones mush into everything else. I also put all the solid reading fabrics in one set of blocks, and all the more patterned ones in the other.

I decided to try again with a much bolder and higher contrast palette, and this is the result. You don't get much more contrast than between black and yellow! I wanted a hot, bright star, so I kept everything in the yellow, orange and hot pink range with some older Kaffe Fasset fabrics and a couple of blenders. The patterns in yellow alternate with the solids/blenders in orange and pink. I used black for the diagonal small squares, and added an outer border so the bright points really pop out of the black.

An unintended consequence of using the small black diagonals is that I ended up with a larger black central square instead of a crossing four patch. Oh well, I think it still looks pretty neat, and I'm happy with this one. All that negative space will be great for some FMQ practice, maybe even in some contrasting gold or pink thread. We'll see how brave I am at the quilting stage.

Astrodelic was a well-written and straight forward pattern, in spite of my newbie quilter jitters. The second top took me less than four hours. I'll probably make this pattern again and do some more color and value playing. How about a rainbow next time?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Little Boy Blue

This small quilt top, measuring 42" x 42", is called Little Boy Blue. The focal fabric is a small panel that I bought in a local quilt shop in...Maine? I think. There were only the four blocks on the panel, then the pattern repeated, so I fattened the quilt up with scrappy 25 patches in creams and pale blues. The sashing is a brighter blue. Another row of scrappy 2.5" squares around the perimeter used up most of those bits and pieces. I'll use the same sashing fabric for the binding, which should tie it all together nicely.

The adventurous boys in the panels are so sweet! I'll take more detailed photos after I quilt this one so you can see their happy little faces.

While sewing one of the longer seams, my bobbin ran out. I changed it quickly and continued to sew. My machine suddenly was much, much smoother and quieter! Hmm, I wonder why? No matter, it sounds great! I sewed another long seam, then moved over to the ironing board. Those two seams were long, curved bows and when I tugged on them gently, the thread snapped. Wha??! It turns out that I hadn't put the bobbin in quite right, so the tension was super high on the bobbin side. I have no idea why that made the machine quieter, but lesson learned. Even what seems like a sudden improvement in sewing should be viewed with suspicion. Rethreading (and two looooong seams to rip) solved the problem.

Linking up with Sew Some Love, since this is a charity quilt for Project Linus.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

First Four RV projects

We've moved off the boat and into the RV; let the sewing begin! I've stitched up four small quilt tops, and even finished the smallest one. To be fair, they are all quite simple, but I'm feeling really productive here.

I'll warn you up front that the lighting is TERRIBLE in here, so the colors in my photos are really off. I'll try to take more pictures outside in the future.

First up is this pink flannel 16 patch. After dabbling briefly with flannels, I decided that I don't have the space to store a decent stash of this bulkier material. So one of my RV goals was to use up the rest of my flannels. All these pinks came from someone else's scraps that I bought on eBay. The individual squares on this are 3" finished, so the entire piece is about 36" x 48", a good baby quilt size.

The backing is several of the wider scrap strips. The true colors of both the front and the back are mostly soft baby pinks with a few hot pink accents.

With the handful of leftover 3" squares, I pieced this doll quilt. Isn't it cute? I have no idea who to give this to, since I don't really know any kids who are at the baby doll loving stage. But it's small enough to tuck away until the right home comes along. This one is finished, pillowcase/envelope style with no batting inside.

Next, I cut up the four panels from the "Good Seasons" line by Andover fabrics. Each panel depicts one season of the year, with a large central square and four smaller squares. This one is Summer, and has a beach/lake theme. I set aside the small squares for another project.

Each panel had a different background color, so I trimmed them down so that wouldn't show. Then I added a thin black border to three of them. Autumn already had a black background, but had been cut from the bolt poorly so I had to add more black to one edge.

Then I auditioned several fabrics for the sashing, including a very safe and dull beige. This black and white pattern almost made the grade, but I decided it was just a bit too busy.

I ended up with this yellow and cream leaf pattern as sashing, since yellow and black were the only two colors that could be found in each of the four panels. The black edging really pops off that yellow! I wish the two blue panels could have ended up diagonally across from each other for balance, but there was no way to do that and have the seasons in order. 

Right now the top is about 48" square, which is a little on the large size for a wheelchair quilt, but a good size for a kid's quilt. With another border or two, it could be a good couch quilt. I think this fabric works well for both kids and adults, so I'll set it aside as is until I know where it's going. I'll choose a backing later, too.

Today I whipped up quilt top number four, a little toddler quilt from a soft book panel. This photo shows the panel before cutting. You can see there are directions for sewing it into a book, but kids grow out of fabric books much sooner than blankets, so it will have a longer life as a quilt.

The book "pages" were already outlined in a little block pattern plus the light blue, so I just added alternating blocks of a lime green seersucker fruit print. I thought that went nicely with the panel's theme, "Garden Friends." The fruit fabric is really quite bright and my camera couldn't capture it's limey goodness at all. A fairly plain purple border wraps it all up neatly, and I'll probably use one of my larger pieces of flannel for the backing.

I found the panel on line, and could see that it was a fun, cute print. Smiling bugs, frogs and flowers! Unfortunately, it was printed on really thin cotton, so I'll need to quilt it fairly heavily to shore it up a bit. Unless I'm very familiar with the designer and manufacturer of a particular fabric, it's a bit of a crap shoot to buy online. I've gotten pieces that were printed poorly on gorgeous, high quality cotton and ones like this where everything was great except the underlying material.

And finally, there is a fifth project but alas, no photos. One of our regular blog readers, Tom, came by to meet us a couple days ago. Tom and his partner work at See's Candies and brought us two boxes! It was such a sweet thing for him to do, that I decided to make them two mug rugs using some fun chocolate themed fabric I have. I used the heart block pattern from Cluck Cluck Sew and they turned out super cute, if I do say so myself. I was a bit rushed to get them finished before Tom came for a second visit, so I forgot to take photos.

No photos of the See's box of Nuts and Chews, either, since that was eaten so fast it would make your head spin...

Monday, February 13, 2017

One more for the road

Here is my final quilt finish for a while, Peaceful Pastures. I have decided that I will be doing only piecing work in the RV so that I can leave most of my bulky batting behind on the boat.

This little lap quilt was pieced, um, maybe a year ago? It promptly got folded up and forgotten until last week. Isn't it amazing how I can lose projects, even in as small a studio as mine? Anyway, I originally planned for it to be Project Linus kids' quilt, but the fabric is appealing to all ages. So when I learned this week that a friend's mother was very, very ill, I decided to make it a wheelchair quilt instead.

The pattern is a simple Attic Windows design, with the large scale pastoral scenery "viewed" through the window panes. Even though the pattern repeats a bit, with blue sky showing up in places other than the top, I think it still works. The other bits of sky blue read perhaps as ponds or lakes.

This big tree and larger birds seem to be right outside the window, with the rolling hills and grazing animals in the distance beyond. 

The back is pieced from a small scale floral and a spring green giraffe spot fabric. I bound it with a tonal dark brown to look like a picture frame.

I quilted it fairly sparsely to keep it soft by ditch stitching around all the window frames and sills, then loosely outlining all the animals and trees. Nothing too precise, just enough to make all the domestic beasties poof up a bit. Peaceful Pastures is off to its recipient in Seattle today.

And speaking of domestic animals, Angel is no worse for wear in the boatyard, even with all the noise and commotion. "Loud equipment vibrating through the boat? No problem, I'm just chillin' on this flat box."

"Piles of packing material and miscellaneous boat parts strewn everywhere? Cool, I'll explore this long skinny box." I hope she settles into the RV quickly, too. We should be moving either tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.