Monday, October 24, 2016

99% finished

Transformation is finished except for a trip through the washer and dryer. This is my disappearing four patch design made entirely with dragonfly fabrics. When I finished piecing the colored fabrics, the quilt was a little too small. I added more white all around, but unevenly so the D4Ps would "float" in the white.

This is my favorite block, with purple and black backgrounds for the dragonflies. 

I quilted it by doing stitch in the ditch along all the white/color junctions, which left the larger four patches of all white or all colors as a single, unquilted piece. That made a grid that sort of looked like a plaid background. Then I did a four-lobed design in each of the larger white squares.

I also quilted the lobed design into the white negative space borders, but only where solid white squares would have been had the colors continued. I think of these as "ghost blocks."

The backing fabric is this tone on tone green with tiny, subtle dragonflies and some pretty metallic accents. The blue, purple and green binding also has a bit of metallic sparkle.

I had some bad luck with this quilt. Can you see the dark spots in this photo? Those are sewing machine oil mixed with some sort of black crud. My walking foot was squeaking, so I oiled everything in the middle of quilting this. Unfortunately, it looks like I didn't get it all wiped up and it must have dripped along one quilting pass. I noticed the spots several days later. So far, they haven't responded very well to spot cleaning with Dawn dishwashing soap which is supposed to cut any kind of grease. I'll treat the spots with a heavy duty prewash stick before machine washing it. We're in water conservation mode right now on the boat, so it may be a week or so before I run the washing machine. I'll take more photos after that to show that the spots have (hopefully!) washed out, and to show the post-dryer crinkle. The lighting is lousy in these photos, so I'll try to shoot some glamour poses later.

Dragonflies are a symbol of transformation. This quilt is a gift for a friend who is certainly going through some big transformations in her life. She was diagnosed with the beginnings of dementia this year, and retired from her career.  I hope this quilt gives her comfort and a quilty hug from me. I know she will forgive the oil spots if they don't completely wash out, but cross your fingers that they will fly away!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spool, stash, show

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it to Chattanooga's own modern quilt shop, Spool. Spool is home of the BadAss Quilter's Society. Unfortunately, the shop was going out of business and is completely closed now. Most of the merchandise was on deep discount and almost all of the fixtures were for sale.

While "deep discount" at a retail, bricks and mortar quilt shop is still 2-3 times more per yard than I prefer to pay, I still did a little shopping. There are certain types of fabric that are hard to find among the stash-stored, unsewn, clean fabrics that I usually find on eBay. One is modern, low volume pieces. Spool had a nice selection in their fat quarters so I bought six. I'm also always looking for bright stripes for bindings. This one is actually from a Christmas line, but it will work well with many of my Project Linus novelties. And the basket, sized perfectly for fat quarters, was only a dollar.

Speaking of those eBay fabrics, a couple more goodies made their way to me via the USPS. I've been looking for chicken fabric for a while, and this panel amused me. Each chicken has a name. I'll combine them with these fabrics for a fun quilt. And I couldn't resist the fancy kitties on furniture.

This bright stripe and lime green fruit fabric will both be very useful at some point. I'm always running out of greens, and the fruits make a polka dotty pattern with lots of movement. Wouldn't that be a fun background? I didn't realize when I bought it that the fruit fabric is actually a seersucker, so that will be interesting to work with.

I'm continuing to chug along on quilting Transformation. In my last post, I showed lots of blue tape marking my straight lines. That was working well on all the vertical lines in the grid. When I started stitching the horizontal ones, though, I noticed the tape was actually pulling the fabric into pleats at each crossing. Argh! After ripping and poking at the tape to try to loosen things up, it occurred to me to try my new Hera tool. What a difference! The tool made nice, clean, straight marks that didn't interfere with the stitching at all. I'm a convert!

And finally, here's a photo of Ocean Portal and Berbere on display in the background at the little art show in California. I think the ceramic pieces on the table are really neat. There were several ceramicists, painters, and photographers. I was so tickled to be invited. The organizers asked me to write up a biography and to make sure I included information about Project Linus to help get the word out about this great charity.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Frugal fabric for QOV?

I just saw this eBay listing for a big batch of red, white and blue patriotic fabrics. If I was currently sewing for Quilts of Valor, I'd probably grab this right up. But first, I'd ask the seller if the fabric was stored in a smoke-free environment.

However, I'm not going to bid on this, so if you're looking for a great price on patriotic prints, this one might be for you. Let me know if you win the auction!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Basting and quilting and cruising

Today I am working on quilting Transformation, my disappearing four patch quilt in dragonfly fabrics. The walking foot on the Juki is so much beefier than the one on the Kenmore. It tracks nicely in a straight line, too, although it does have a rather annoying squeak.

There's quite a bit of negative space along two sides of this quilt, thanks to a suggestion from Kat. I'm using blue painter's tape to guide the in-the-ditch stitching lines beyond the dragonflies.

The goal is to stitch NEXT to the tape, not ON the tape. Oops. I'll pick that out later.

I basted Transformation and Angular Jungle yesterday by laying each one out on our queen size bed. The backing fabric for the latter is yet another piece from Sue's gift: cute, tiny buttons in all the perfect bright colors. After smoothing the backing face down, I use pins to stretch the fabric tight. I poke the pins straight down into the mattress. Then I use 505 spray to stick all the layers together. I have basting pins, too, but typically only use them along the edges.

I also finished sewing the twelve blocks together for C's Canines. I thought about basting this puppy, too, but I really needed to tackle the pile of previous WIPs first. Angular Jungle and Transformation already had backings pieced and ready to go, and AJ even had its batting cut to size. I really don't like the basting process: it's hard on my back to lean over the bed, the basting spray is stinky and sticky, and wrangling batting is tricky in the small space. Fortunately, it goes fairly quickly and then I can get back to the jovial Juki!

We're seeing lots more fall color along the Tennessee River in just one short week. My camera can only capture the prettiness when we're quite close to shore, but my eyeballs are enjoying the view. In a boat that only goes 8mph, there's plenty of time to stare at the scenery and also indulge in 15 minute sewing sessions.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Knoxville, TN

This week we are taking a little trip up the Tennessee River from Chattanooga to Knoxville and back. We were both itching to get moving on the boat, and my physical therapist thought I would be fine without any treatment for a week. That little white dot in the center of the river is us, as seen from a restaurant on the 27th floor. It's been a lovely trip and I got some sewing done, too.

Isn't that an impressive dragonfly? It was almost as big as my hand, and let me take several photos before flying lazily away. It landed on the boat as we were locking up through the Fort Loudoun lock.

I making a little quilt for the granddaughter of some dear boating friends. The girl is six years old and is scheduled to have some major surgery next year. I've been told that she loves dogs and bright colors, specifically hot pink, turquoise and yellow. Here are three of the twelve blocks. I'm pretty confident I nailed her preferences!

The dog fabrics are all by Laurel Burch, a line called "Dogs and Doggies." The darker pieces are cut from a panel. Here's a close up of one of them. The panel sections are all different sized rectangles, so I surrounded each piece with bright fabrics from my stash and then trimmed them back to 9.5" squares. Then I added another round of uniformly wide pieces to give this chaos of color a bit of cohesion. Not that I think I need to reign it in too much: most six year olds are wildly enthusiastic about their favorite animals and colors. At that age, if you love pink, YOU LOVE PINK!! Would that we all embraced our loves so deeply.

As I was slicing the blocks to size, I discarded the usual pile of trimmings. But when I was cutting straight, single layers of pieces, I noticed these odd, tiny strips kept showing up. It took me a while to figure out that I had accidentally installed two rotary cutter blades into my handle!

The two blades were less than a thread's width apart, but as I kept cutting, tiny slivers of threads started accumulating in between the blades until they became parallel cutters. Mystery solved and good thing, too. I thought I was down to my last blade but now I still have a spare.

The weather is finally getting cool enough for all three of us to actually be using my quilts. Here is Angel, curled up on her two quilts and the special pillow I made for her. When she does this, it reminds us of a pearl on display and she hears one of her nicknames, Pearly Girlie.

I was tickled to find out from Muv that she featured Ocean Portal on Free Motion Mavericks this week. Thanks, Muv! If you are doing any FMQ at all, even beginner stuff like I do, please consider linking up with her. I always enjoy looking through all the linky parties.

Today is my birthday, and I'm going to celebrate by finalizing the layout the twelve doggie blocks and finishing the quilt top. Most of the day will be spent cruising peacefully down the river, watching the fall color roll past on the shoreline. We'll most likely be at anchor and nowhere near a restaurant, so we'll have a quiet dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine. And that sounds like a perfect day to me!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Moving ahead on small projects

This week I finished two small tasks on my plate. The first was to sew up a canvas cover for the outside part of our new air conditioner unit. This "mini-split" a/c is not rated for marine use, so we figured it would last longer if it had a cover. I learned how to make the boxed corners on the top from a tutorial on quilted tote bags. 

There's a hose and some wiring that sticks out the back of the box, so I made a curved cut out to slip around that.

The bottom is secured with a simple Velcro tab, to keep it from blowing off in  the wind. The whole cover fits pretty tightly, so those would have to be high winds, indeed. I don't really like doing canvas work like this. The material is actually Sunbrella and it is so thick and unwieldy, like sewing together a cardboard box! However, this is part of my resposibility to keep the boat in ship-shape. I have the proper tools to do the job and just have to grit my teeth and git 'er done. The new Juki sewing machine handled the bulky canvas layers and the thick UV-resistant thread like a champ, though, so that's good.

On a more quilty note, I sewed up five blocks for the October block drive for Covered in Love. Kat asked for foundation pieced string blocks in no particular color scheme, so I pulled out a random assortment of my narrow scraps. I decided to try for a truly scrappy look, and only sorted the fabrics into darks and lights. I paid no attention to whether the next string looked "good" next to the previous, just alternated dark light dark light, avoiding only truly juvenile prints. For a linear thinking, matchy matchy person like me, that was a real challenge!

Half way through the process, I was pretty discouraged. I thought my blocks looked like, um, dog barf.  Turquoise polka dots next to rust stripes?! Bright fishes and pastel iridescent lavender? Yuck-o. You can see in the photo above that the strings look pretty ugly at the pre-trimming stage. I honestly thought that I just didn't have a "scrappy eye." 

But here's how they look after trimming to the final square shape. Hey, wow, those are kinda neat! The stripes look parallel and have good contrast.

And here are four of them together, forming a diamond pattern. This has movement and interest, just like Kat said it would. Cool! Trust the process, that's today's Lesson Learned. I'll pop these in the mail to Kat tomorrow.

Finally, you might remember this little quilt. It's an Attic Windows block featuring some sweet feathered friends from the Birds In Branches line. 

When I made it months ago, I didn't have a particular recipient in mind. I just liked the little birds and wanted some more FMQ practice. It is sized to be a wheelchair quilt, only 36" square. Such a small piece is less likely to get caught in a rolling chair's big wheels, but would work equally well used in a conventional chair without being too bulky.

I was very sad to learn this week that my sister-in-law's mother is quite ill. "Birds in the Window" will be winging it's way to Canada to offer a little warmth and love to D's Mom. I hope it give her some comfort and cheer.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Quick receiving blanket

Last year I did some experimentation with using fleece as quilt backing. While I really like the soft fuzziness of fleece, it's kind of a pain to quilt. It's stretchy and drags against the sewing machine bed quite differently than quilting cotton. I didn't love sewing with it, so I stopped buying fleece.

I had one backing-sized piece of soft pink fleece left, and it kicked around my small sewing studio for many months. Because it was just the one piece, it didn't have a proper place to be put away and it's fairly bulky. Yesterday I'd had enough of moving it out of the way AGAIN and decided to just use it and get rid of it.

This sweet panel seemed like a good match for the pink, so I sewed them right sides together, pillow case style, then turned it right sides out and edge stitched it. I then did some minimal, free motion quilting around the flowered border and the outline of the tree. I also outlined each butterfly, so on the back you see a simple tree with butterflies in and around it. An easy, quick project to not stress my shoulder too much.

It ended up being very soft, and is a good size for a receiving blanket, about 36"x42". Project Linus distributes all sorts of blankets for children, not just quilts, so this will be useful to them. Win-win!

Do you ever sew something just to get rid of the fabric?