Friday, December 2, 2016

Boat basting


It took me a while to figure out the best way to baste quilts on the boat, and I thought I'd share that process on today's post.  We only have two rectangular tables, and both are quite small. The one in the salon has fiddles, which is a raised lip all the way around to keep items from sliding off as the boat rocks. Unless the quilt is smaller than 20"x44", the fiddles keep the quilt from laying flat.

The table in my studio, which is about 24"x48" is a better size and has a flat top. But it's wedged on top of the guest bed and up against a side wall, and has the sewing machine on it. I've basted on this table, using the method where you roll each part of the sandwich around long boards, but it is incredibly cramped and awkward.

The only large unobstructed section of floor is outside on the upper deck, where it is almost always windy, and I'm not eager to kneel while basting anyway. So, what remains as a large flat surface is the queen sized master bed.


Here is a really bad photo of the mattress. The white splotches are spots of sunshine from the two small windows on the starboard side. Not a whole lot of light comes in through 8"x18" portlights, but it really contrasts with the darkness of the room!


A queen mattress is 60"x80", so baby and lap sized quilts fit easily. First I lay out the backing fabric, right side down, and smooth all the wrinkles out.


Then I pin around the edges, right into the mattress, keeping the backing as taut as possible. Our mattress is generic memory foam and the pins hold nicely. I use these pins only for this purpose, since they tend to get sticky from the basting spray.


Next, I smooth the batting on top of the backing. I know that conventional wisdom says the backing should be bigger than the batting, but I don't worry about that too much for quilting on my Juki. As long as both pieces are bigger than the top, it works fine for me.


Next, I fold back the batting about halfway. The little rectangles you see in the photo are small pieces of iron-on tape to connect two pieces of batting together. I use those and a zigzag stitch to make "frankenbatting" from batting scraps.


Using 505 brand spray baste adhesive, I spray directly on the batting, not on the backing fabric. I've found that I don't need all that much 505 in the middle, just a spritz every 8 inches or so rather than an even coating. It's more important that the edges and corners are well sprayed. I've tried several other brands and like 505 the best. If weather permits, I open the windows for ventilation. Otherwise, I just turn on the master bathroom fan to keep the air moving. I haven't noticed any irritation from the spray fumes, probably because I really don't use very much.


After smoothing the sticky batting onto the backing, I fold back the other half and repeat. The bed is a good height for me to be able to reach every part of the sandwich so I can really feel if there are any lumps or pleats. I can also walk around three sides easily.


Next, I lay the quilt top on the batting, checking to make sure it is roughly centered on the batting and backing and smoothing it down.


Then I repeat the process of folding it back halfway, spraying the adhesive on the batting, and smoothing it back down.


Again, it's important that the corners are well basted, since they get a lot of handling during quilting.


I also double check that the edges are stuck down well.


Ta da! All basted and ready to remove the pins from the mattress. This whole process takes me about 15 minutes on a quilt this size. Yesterday I basted two toddler quilts for Project Linus, and a gift quilt for a friend. That one was 62"x62", so it hung over the edges of the bed a little bit and took more time to make sure all the layers were flat.


Lately, I've been basting quilts in batches on the day that I change the sheets on the bed. That's because we're testing this thick blue egg crate foam mattress topper to see if it helps my sore shoulder. We bought a hospital bed sized topper, which is roughly half the size of a queen bed and was cheaper to buy and ship. It goes under the mattress pad.


After the bed is fully made, the topper makes quite a lump on my side! I used to baste my quilts right on top of the fully made bed, but it simply isn't flat enough right now to do that. So now I wait until I'm stripping the bed anyway to make a suitable surface for quilt basting. If the foam helps my shoulder without being too soft for my lower back, we'll invest in a queen sized piece for the whole bed. The jury is still out, though.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Bilge, storm, pillow



Well, it's been quite an exciting couple of days aboard Vector (that's the boat's name, if you're new around here.) Yesterday morning a different bilge alarm went off, this one underneath the bed in the quilting studio. These alarms detect water where it shouldn't be: inside the boat. You may recall that the one that went off late last week was an overflowing shower sump pump. No big deal, since shower water already lives in the boat, so if it ends up in the bilge it won't sink us.

The alarm that screamed yesterday was potentially much worse: a leaky washdown pump hose. The washdown pump is for rinsing mud and other icky stuff off the anchor, and it uses raw water (the water the boat sits in: the ocean, the river, etc.) The pump lives deep in the bilge under the bed with a hose that then snakes up to the deck. If something goes wrong with one of the many pumps that bring raw water into the boat, now we're talking about bringing outside water in and that can get ugly. Fortunately, the hose was only leaking a little bit and the pump is only on briefly while we raise or lower the anchor.

But until we knew for certain what was going on, we had to get eyeballs on the bilge under the bed. That involves pushing back the mattress and opening a hatch. My husband fixed the hose pretty quickly, but the gallon or so of raw water had to be removed from the bilge and then the whole area needed to be dried out. You really don't want a puddle of stinky river water stagnating under your guest bed. So the hatch remained open all day with a fan blowing to dry things out, and the quilting studio was completely unusable until late this afternoon. It's chilly and damp, so things dry out very slowly. I didn't think to take photos of the whole messy process, but I doubt anyone is overly disappointed in that.

That wasn't a big deal yesterday, since we were cruising down the river and enjoying the view. But today the weather was too nasty to move, so we remained in the same anchorage all day. We had very heavy rain and wind gusts of over 50mph. Even the professional tug boat captains were pulling over to the banks to ride this one out. The boat was rockin' and rollin' but I still could have done a bit of sewing if the room was available. I can pet and iron fabric in even the heaviest weather. Instead, I spent the day surfing my Instagram and Pinterest feeds, which are full of gorgeous quilts. Sigh. I found a nice neutral fabric bundle on eBay to buy, but 'tis better to sew than spend!

If you have a fantasy about boat life that involves endless cocktails while floating in warm turquoise waters, let me tell you that leaking hoses, loud alarms, huge autumn storms and frustrating days without quilting are here to bring you back to reality.



I finally convinced Sean that the bilge was dry enough and that we could put the room back together around 3pm. I was able to finish this little pillow cover that I had started last week. It has simple straight line quilting for a clean, modern look. It's a very satisfying finish, since it used up four random items that needed a good home: a mini charm pack, the last of some weird holiday fabric (for the quilt backing inside), two small pieces of fusible batting, and a bit of grey 100% linen.



Oh, wait! Five things: I also reused an old zipper salvaged from another pillow. My zipper installations aren't first rate, but they get the job done. And now my happy little pillow will live in the pilot house where it will get used as a lumbar support every day.



And then, just as forecast, the storm was completely over right at sunset. Red sky at night, sailor's delight. I just cracked open my favorite beer, Sean fired up the grill and is cooking bratwurst for dinner, and a pumpkin pie is thawing out for dessert. I guess boat life isn't so bad after all. Cross your fingers for a bilge-alarm-free week!





Saturday, November 26, 2016

Lots of little projects

After several big finishes this week, my studio was a bit of a jumble. I rarely get motivated to straighten up when I'm in the middle of a project. Instead, I literally push stacks of fabric aside on the bed until they fall on the floor.

But we have guests coming to stay aboard the boat with us in a couple of weeks, so there is definitely a deadline to get the room cleaned up. For those of you who are new to the blog, my quilting studio is the guest stateroom on our boat. It's a really small room, only about two feet wider on all sides than the full-sized bed. My cutting mat, ironing board, and sewing machine are all set up on that bed, and fabric and notions are tucked into every nook and cranny of the room. It all has to move out so that guests can sleep! So this week I've been chipping away at organizing everything, because tidy fabric takes up a lot less room. And tidy fabric in containers will be simpler to move into *our* bedroom later.



My string scraps had gotten quite disorganized, so I'm trying something new. It's that most wonderful time of year, allergy season, so we have a seemingly infinite supply of empty Kleenex boxes which I'm using to sort by color. Box color doesn't match fabric color, alas. And yes, that is a bathroom sink off to the left. This is the tiny guest loo; I sat on the lid of the potty to take the photo.

Of course, the very best way to organize fabric is to sew with it. And it seems that every time I started refolding a pile, I found something that could just as easily be sewn up into a project as put away for later.


One box contained a bunch of charm squares from various fabric lines. Back when I was a rank beginner, I fell prey to the lure of charms. Meghan of The Bitchy Stitcher calls them "quilter's crack" because they are so addictive and yet often so useless.  One pack isn't enough for anything, and I had single packs of Fossil Fern, Valorie Wells, Kaffe Fassett and heaven knows what else. So I sewed them into quarter square triangle (QST) blocks by color family and now they feel like they could become a cohesive future project. I had to include the obligatory shot of the trimmings, because that seems to be "thing" with quilters.




I also found a mini charm pack, an even more useless item. But at 2.5", the little squares are so cute!! It was a freebie of American Made solids that I got in Houston last year. Still feeling the QST love, I stitched up this pillow front and edged it with a piece of grey linen that had no other foreseeable use.



I've already sandwiched the pillow top and it's ready for quilting. The back is the last piece of the Makower UK holiday fabric from the Advent Calendar I made a couple weeks ago. It's cute fabric, but doesn't match any other Christmas stuff I have, so it will be hidden inside the pillow.



Next I made backings for three finished quilt tops, and matched them up with the right sizes of batting pieces. You might recall that I use a bit of painter's tape to label the batting with its size. That's been working so well that I decided to do the same with tops and backings. Otherwise I keep measuring the same things over and over again! "Hmm, is this the one that's 42"x50", or is it 46"? I think this backing is 52"? Will this batting be an inch too small?" So you can see bits of blue tape on everything now. The tops in this photo will be revealed in another post.



This super soft piece of brown herringbone flannel was kicking around without a home, so I added a bit of an Asian inspired quilting cotton to make a nice infinity scarf. I don't use much flannel, and most of my stash is kid-themed, so this brown just needed to be something else. Problem solved!



This is a very thin lumbar pillow for my chair, to help improve my posture while sitting. My normal position tends to curl me forward which has not been helping my sore shoulder. The pillow, really just a pad, is made of scraps of fleece covered with this little house print. That jaunty angle for the photo hides a strange stain on the chair. You're welcome.



I used the rest of the house print to recover the pad on Sean's computer lap tray. The original had completely disintegrated and we were talking about buying another tray before I had a "duh!" moment and just recovered it. My matching lap tray of the exact same vintage isn't wearing out at all, so I don't know what my husband does with his kneecaps while I'm not looking.



Last but not least, I cut the science and math improv piece into circles for the next stage of that project. I'll be piecing them into some Essex linen background which I'm actually buying NEW. I scored some Essex used on eBay this spring and fell in love with it, but it doesn't come up often in my searches. Craftsy is having a great sale this week, though. I will have to wait 2-3 weeks before we have a good delivery address, so I must be patient.



And that's about it for projects for the rest of the day, because the studio now looks like this. What you are looking at is the entry way of the room, with the floor panel pulled up. That exposes the four foot deep bilge below it, which now has a fan blowing into it to dry it out. Last night at 2am, the shower sump pump failed and dumped a couple gallons of soap scummy water into the bilge. We have a VERY loud alarm that goes off when that happens, and we got the flooding stopped, but it takes a while to get it all dried out. In the meantime, I'd rather not step across that hole very often. I fell into it a couple years ago and don't need to repeat that spectacular bruising performance.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving reveal



Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers. I'm grateful for the community of gracious, creative and generous quilters online. I've learned so much from all of you. Because of our mobile aquatic lifestyle, I'm rarely in one place long enough to take classes or join a face-to-face guild. So pretty much everything I know about quilting comes from the internet. Every photo, tip, comment or tutorial you post helps me so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm also grateful for my non-quilting friends, and thrilled to be able to share my latest two finishes. Both quilts have made their surprise appearances in California, so I can share them here.



This is Cats of Hope, made for my friend Jeri. The block is an old, traditional one called Star of Hope. It has a few other names, too, but "hope" is the message I wanted to send to Jeri. I dove into my stash of cat fabrics and picked out all the ones with more realistic colors: black, brown, grey. The accent colors for most of them are various shades of reds and oranges.



Each block has a different neutral background, and I made sure to include a couple of musical notation ones in a nod to Jeri's brother. I hope he doesn't look TOO closely at those, though, since they were clearly designed by a non-musician and are rather nonsensical.



I've never visited Jeri's home, so I had no idea if this color scheme would match her decor. However, I knew for certain that it would match her cats!



Sunshine was the first to discover the quilt, and settled right in. Cats instinctively know where to find the softest place to curl up. That grey and black plaid is fuzzy flannel on the back.



Soon Moonshadow claimed the other end.



Here's a glamour shot of Moonshadow on the front of the quilt with the block he matches the best. So handsome and stylish! Clearly Jeri's two cats have excellent taste. Jeri was delighted with her quilt, and that makes me happy happy happy!



The second gift quilt now in its new home is Tessellated Tannenbaum. Whoa, that's one bright quilt! It was inspired by a photo I saw on Pinterest. I eventually tracked it down to a Craftsy pattern called Wander Through the Woods, but by that time I had reverse engineered it so I didn't need the pattern. However, I would encourage you to purchase it if you want to make something similar. I won't share my version of the pattern so the designer (Hope's Quilt Designs) can continue to profit from her idea. It's listed as a beginner pattern and my method was quite fussy, so I'm sure Hope's way is simpler.



Most of the fabrics are from a jelly roll of a Laurel Burch holiday line. Even though the colors are non-traditional (hot pink! lime green! turquoise!) the motifs are all Christmas. Well, and cats. Stockings, cats, decorated trees, cats, mistletoe, cats, snowflakes, cats, presents, and cats.



This quilt is a gift for my friends Lisa and Steve. They have cats, T-Boy and Juice. And like the cats on Tessellated Tannebaum, their young, exuberant cats get into everything. They also have an elderly beagle named Stella, who is beseiged by the cats. So I had to add a bit of dog fabric to the quilt to help Stella hold her own. I had some leftover Laurel Burch from the "Dogs and Doggies" line that I used in C's quilt, so there are a few trees made up of only dogs.



I don't have any photos of the quilt in their house, because they are in the middle of a big kitchen renovation project. In fact, Lisa said this quilt may be their only Christmas tree this year because of the chaos. But next year it should look great on the bright green couch in their family room.


Quilts that are for friends and family get my personalized labels (charity quilts are given anonymously.) The back says, "Machine Wash, Tumble Dry, Use Often." I hope Jeri, Lisa and Steve (and Moonshadow, Sunshine, Stella, Juice, and T-Boy) enjoy these gifts for many years!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sneak peeks


I have couple finishes to share this week. First up is this cute Advent Calendar. The fabric is by Makower UK and the entire front of the calendar is a single printed panel. The little pockets with the trees are cut in strips from the panel, ironed up into box pleats, and sewn on the main piece. Add batting, backing, binding and hanging loops and voila! It only took about two hours from start to finish and the fabric is now out of my sewing studio. I'm sending it to some step cousins who have little girls just the right age for peeking into the little pockets for candy or toys.


This is the back. I like the modern colors on this and the mid-century modern vibe. I hope my cousins like it, too. I really recommend these Makower projects. The fabric is very high quality.


Next up are my contributions to this month's block drive over at Covered in Love.  Kat asked for these uneven scrappy blocks that have warm and cool colors on opposite corners so that when the blocks are sewn together they form wonky warm or cool stars. I had just finished another project with a number of the neutral background squares left over, so it worked out well for the drive blocks.



And here is that other project, ta da! See those same neutral squares? No? Gosh, I guess it was windy that day.


How about in this shot? Oh, wait, that's the back. Hmm. Well, this is actually a gift that is still winging its way to the recipient, so I'm not going to share more yet. 


Here's another secret project where I can only share the back. You'll see more of both of these quilts in the next week or so, I promise.


And lastly, I started my first improvisational piece. These fabrics, which are all science- and math-themed, are scraps that I bought on eBay. The seller makes neckties, so most of the pieces were odd, long, skinny triangles cut on the bias. I stitched them together in chunks, adding a bit of the solid burgundy at random. The size of the piece in the photo is about 30"x40" and it will be cut up again for the next step. Stay tuned!



Monday, November 14, 2016

Trunk Show 2016

Welcome to my Trunk Show! Soma over at Whims and Fancies is sponsoring this fun blog hop where we are asked to feature our finished quilts from 2016. I've been working on a couple of super secret squirrel projects lately so I'm happy to have an opportunity to blog about something besides my current sewing. Here we go!

First quarter, 2016


This quilt, made from a panel by M'Liss, was a baby gift for my newest cousin, Luke.


Half Square Triangle quilt made with the Lario line of fabric, was a housewarming for my husband's cousins.


Vienna Garden, 16 patch quilt gift for a dear friend. I totally fell in love with this pattern, and want to try 25- and 36-patches, too!


Pinkly Purply Hearts, made with the heart pattern by Cluck Cluck Sew, donated to Project Linus. Project Linus gives blankets to children in need of comfort.


Polar Bears With Old Man Hairs, also for Project Linus. I practiced "dot to dot" quilting on this one, and never took a photo of the complete, finished quilt. That polar bear novelty fabric still cracks me up!


Go, Dog, Go! was another Project Linus quilt. The stripes between the big arrows features dogs driving cars. All scrappy backgrounds.


A bit of selfish sewing: this 16 patch queen sized quilt was for our own bed, and was made in four sections. The navy sashing hides the junctions between the sections. Sort of a very large quilt as you go (QAYG) project.

Second quarter


Disappearing nine patch I-spy quilt for Project Linus. So fun to make! I'm saving up more novelty squares to make another one of these. 


Cat Family Portrait, made with the bonus HSTs from Pinkly Purply Hearts. My first mitered border, what a pain in the tuchus that was. Project Linus (PL) donation. The sweet cat faces on this quilt are among my all-time favorite fabric. Too bad it's out of print!


Charming Cupcakes, a simple patchwork quilt for PL. I did a different FMQ motif in each color and learned so much. All the fabrics were scraps.


Scrappy Chili Peppers, also made completely from scraps. This one was donated to Covered in Love as part of the Hands to Help Charity Challenge. Covered in Love provides comforting quilts to families who have had a member pass away in the hospital.


Bright Bento, donated to the same charity challenge. Almost all the fabrics on this one are Kaffe Fassett, which are a joy to work with. Such a wonderful, soft hand!


Birds in Branches, an attic windows pattern quilt, sized for wheel chair use at 36" x 36". Originally made "just because," I ended up giving it to my sister-in-law's mother last month.


Berbere, made from silk dupioni scraps. I wanted to see how silk quilted up, and the answer is that it's a bit tricky but the results are shimmery and lovely. This is a wall hanging size and I kept it for myself.


Brewskis, made for my step cousin Will who was badly injured in a work accident. Beer themed fabrics in economy blocks. I really hoped this would cheer him up, and it sounds like he really likes it. His health is improving, too!

Third quarter


A sweet owl themed baby quilt for another step cousin's new daughter. The nursery features turquoise and chevrons, so I was happy to sew this up to match. The animals in the center are part of a larger panel.


Windchimes, a modern column quilt for my friend Linda. The grey background is Essex linen, which is a dream to work with. Some of the purples are shot cottons, my first experience with those, too. I'd love to have yards and yards more shots and Essex in my stash!


Balance, a gift for my friend G. The pattern is "Movement in Squares" by Wendy Shepherd. After she received it, G told me she had always wanted a quilt, and had never had one before. I was so happy to grant that wish for her!


Animal ABCs, another Project Linus donation quilt. Super cute soft book panel, cut up, borders added and rearranged into a little quilt. The binding is rainbow satin blanket binding, folded over double thick.


Ocean Portal, my first curved piecing. All the fabrics are smiling fish, wavy watery fabrics, and dots to represent bubbles. For Project Linus.

Fourth quarter


Let's Go To The Races! an illusion pattern quilt made with fun race-themed fabrics: cars, monster trucks, flames, checkered flags, etc. Fast and easy with big blocks, PL donation.


Life is Tweet, a super simple quilted panel with no piecing at all. Fleece back for extra softness. More of a receiving blanket than quilt, I finished this one in just a couple of hours. 


Angular Jungle, made with a funky jungle animal panel and exploding block pattern. Another simple, fast piece to sew for Project Linus when my shoulder was hurting too much to spend very long at the machine.


Transformation, a disappearing four patch quilt made entirely of dragon fly themed fabrics and creamy white. This was a retirement gift for my friends Pam and Di. It turns out that they collect quilts and were sweetly appreciative of this one.

If you've made it this far, thank you for sitting through my 2016 trunk show. It was a fun, productive year and I learned so many new patterns and techniques. It's also the year I started quilt blogging, and I've made lots of new friends through quilting social media. Let's do it again next year!

Online Quilt Trunk Show | Whims And Fancies