Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Solomon Strips Squirrel

This week I've been inspired by this photo from Anita Grossman Solomon's website. This is her Self-Mitered Log Cabin, and she teaches classes on how to make it. The class description, including the materials list, gave me a few clues on how to create something similar for myself. I know it isn't exactly the same as her method, because she refers to vellum foundations and I did simple strip piecing without any foundation.

I decided to try a few blocks to see if my reverse engineering worked, just using scraps. The crux of the block construction involves choosing fabrics in the entire range of values from lightest to darkest. So I needed to lay out my scraps, and while I was doing that anyway, I did a bit of organizing.  Then while we were cruising down the Intracoastal Waterway between New Orleans and Morgan City, I sorted and selected strips. 

I chose groups of 8 strips from my blues, greens, purples, pinks and reds. In this photo, I have a grouping fanned out so you can see the range from light to dark. I kept the little groups together with WonderClips. Good thing, too, since the entire box of strip sets fell on the floor at one point. Doh! Being clumsy forces one to be more organized, I think.

Here are two sets sewn together, but not pressed yet. Color value work is a real challenge for me. I tend to purchase and use saturated brights in the medium range, so my quilts often lack contrast. Sure, they are bright, but too much bright can lack focus and movement. So this is a good exercise, even if I can only work on it in short bursts before my brain overloads. 

Here are a couple of final blocks. They are basically half square triangles sewn from two strip sets. The way they are combined, the dark part of one strip set and the light part of the other intersect in a way that sort of makes an ombre effect when multiple blocks are laid out. I think they are super neat!

I originally thought I would use my little groups of strips as a leader and ender project, but once my brain started chasing this SQUIRREL! it just wanted to keep sewing and sewing.

That's fine, because we had another episode of our shower sump overflowing and now the bilge needs to be dried out. This fan has been precariously perched across my studio doorway, making it a bit dangerous to step back and forth through here. I need to step inside once, and stay there for a while. The other WIPs I'm working on, two Hands2Help charity quilts, are at a stage where I'm laying them out on the bed in the other room and then carrying pieces from the bed to the sewing machine or ironing board. That means crossing the fan threshold too often, so they'll have to wait for another day to continue working on them.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hands 2 Help check in: First finish

My first Hands2Help charity quilt is a finish. Fernville Seasons has tumbled through the washer and dryer. Sarah has asked us to check in today on our progress for the challenge.

The wavy/straight line combo quilting crinkled up for some nice, cuddly texture. These are the last photos from our long visit to Seabrook Marine in New Orleans as we are now back under way. Hooray! It feels great to be cruising again.

Fernville Seasons is going to be donated to Happy Chemo, and will hopefully help keep a cancer patient warm and provide a bit of cheerful distraction.

I committed to making a quilt for each of the three Hands2Help charities this year. The other two are currently still in the flimsy stage, one complete and the other needing a final border. Photos and write ups on those two coming soon!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Devoted Donation

Nine little blocks for Leanne at Devoted Quilter. The senior center across the street from her house burned down last week, and 21 people were left with no recoverable possessions. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Leanne decided to make quilts for each person and asked for help making the 882 (!!) necessary blocks.

When I read about the block drive on Instagram, I had a DrEAMI moment. That's Drop Everything And Make It! We'll be leaving the boatyard in the next couple of days, and I wanted to mail the blocks out to Leanne in Canada while it is still easy to get to the post office.

The block is a surrounded square with a 6.5" center. I had these nine Kaffe Fassett/Rowan squares and they seemed just right for the job. The colors are a bit wild together in this grouping, but I know Leanne will mix up blocks from many other quilters to make quilts that are just right. These nine will probably scatter across a number of quilts.

If you are moved to help, please visit Leanne's blog post for more information. Many hands make light work!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Quilters are NICE

...but some other people sure aren't. As you may know, my husband also blogs. He writes about our travels, with lots of detail about the things he fixes, maintains or creates from scratch for the boat. It's primarily a detailed record for our own archives, but he does have several hundred regular readers.

Yesterday, he posted this photo of a chain splice that he made. It's basically a kind of braided knot made from very thick, very stiff rope. It's not easy to do, especially if you only make one every three years or so. He admits he's a newbie at it, but that the splice does the trick. 

Quilty friends, that blog post generated exactly two comments, and both people said his splice was ugly! Not just ugly, "butt ugly." That's just mean. 

Now we quilters, we've seen our share of quilts that aren't our taste. Color and fabric combos that don't float our boat. We've seen chopped off points, crooked seams, puckery bindings. Have you ever, EVER read a comment that said a quilt was ugly? No way. For a newbie who is just learning, we always find something kind and encouraging to say. Strange fabrics? "Your quilting is looking great!" Odd FMQ? "I love how cheerful this quilt is!" And if an experienced quilter posts something that we just can't find anything to compliment, well, we just don't leave a comment that day.

Sean is pretty thick skinned, so he replied to each of those commenters politely. But he worked hard on that splice, darn it! It took him several hours to make this important piece of our boat. I'm not saying you have to, but if a couple of kindly quilters visited his post and gave him an Attaboy, I'd be grateful and the world would be a nicer place. Thanks!

And speaking of quilts that may or may not be your taste, here is my latest finish. I'm calling it Fernville Seasons, and it will be donated to Happy Chemo for Hands2Help.

Each panel shows a scene from one of the four seasons. People ice skating in the winter,

flowers, animals and birds in the spring,

folks enjoying the water in the summer (including some NICE boaters),

and an autumn full of pumpkins, falling leaves and little birds. I thought all the fun panel details would be a nice distraction for someone undergoing chemotherapy. The quilting is simple, wavy and straight diagonal lines. The size is about 50"x50" for a good lap or wheelchair size. The binding is scrappy. It hasn't been washed yet, so it will probably shrink a smidge. 

The back is mostly covered with fun, funky chickens and a stripe of mossy green ferns. Those ferns named the little town for me, Fernville. Janice, I thought about your Chicken Poop quilt as I was piecing the back! I think my chickens pooped in the ferns where you can't see it. 

I'll try to post some "glamour shots" after Fernville Seasons gets crinkly in the wash next week.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sweet Astrodelic

Sweet Astrodelic is finished. I'm happy to report that it had a successful run through the washer and dryer. It shrank up a bit to 41"x41", a good size for a baby quilt. I used leftovers from the fat quarter bundle to make a scrappy binding.

Here is the backing, a soft cream with yellow flowers and roosters. On quilts this small, it's so nice to use a single cut of fabric for the backing.

I tried to capture the relative "coarseness" of the fabric in this photo. The weave is more open than most quilting cottons, and I worried that I wouldn't quilt or wash well. However, it turned out fine. And it isn't rough to touch at all, just sort of visually more open. The roosters are about 3/4" tall, so you can see the scale of my stippling.

I will definitely donate this one to Project Linus, and here's their cute label. I machine stitched the binding to the back first, then did a machine edge stitch on the front of the binding. Not as graceful as the traditional method with hand sewing, but very fast and sturdy.

I admire those bloggers who take such nice "glamour" shots of their quilts. Mine are...adequate. Here's Sweet Astrodelic clipped to the back of our boat. 

And here it is, held up via the Handy Husband method. Love that post-dryer crinkle! The New Orleans Industrial Canal and a tourist river boat are in the distant background. The boat with the pointy bow sticking out just to the right of the quilt is rumored to have cost $20,000,000 new. That's a lot of fabric, my friends. 

The boatyard is still working on our (not $20M) boat. This afternoon I was amused to see a guy hanging over the edge. He's sitting on what looks like an orange Hippity-Hop (remember those?) but is actually an inflatable ball fender. It's used to keep the boat from banging against hard surfaces, but Khahn is riding it cowboy style instead. Most of the yard workers speak only Vietnamese, but they completely understood me when I said, "I gotta get a picture of this!" and everyone laughed.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Blog silence but the Juki is humming

We have moved back aboard the boat, hooray! It actually happened right after my last post. The boat was still out of the water, so getting aboard required climbing this loooong, wobbly ladder. All the stuff we had moved into the RV also traveled up a ladder to return to its boatly home, so it was a pretty tiring process.

All my fabric and the tops I stitched up in the RV ended up in a giant pile on the bed in my sewing studio (also known as the second stateroom.) I decided to finish adding borders and sew backs for all the tops, then baste them all in an exciting week of March Basting Madness.

I didn't take any photos during the basting, but you can read here about my on-the-bed technique.  Here's the stack of basted pieces, ready for quilting. I basted eight and I'm feeling quite industrious. I've decided which three will go to the three charities in the Hands2Help Challenge, plus one for Covered in Love. H2H has the earliest deadline, so I'll work on those as soon as possible.

Today I started quilting Sweet Astrodelic, even though it isn't for H2H. That's because I'm using a backing fabric that isn't standard quilting cotton. It's a very cute little yellow rooster print, but seems to be thicker and more loosely woven. I want to use the same fabric on the much larger Veggie Mountain, but only if it quilts and washes up well on this piece. 

Sweet Astrodelic is being quilted in a loose stipple, to keep it soft and get it finished quickly. If the backing passes muster, it will probably be a Project Linus donation. If it falls apart or shrinks strangely, I'll be sad but not devastated.

I've already learned something important on this quilt. My Juki does NOT like Connecting Threads brand thread! I broke three needles before I figured out it was the thread. That was three different brands of needles, too. Very strange! My theory is that the thinner Aurifil that I usually use glides through the eye of the needle more smoothly and is less likely to "catch" as I free motion quilt. In any case, after I switched back to a very similarly colored Aurifil 50 weight, I've had no problems and the thread change is undetectable on the quilt.

I sent Kat one of the extra spools of Connecting Threads that I had, along with this month's blocks. Kat, if it works in your machine, I'll send you two more spools. If not, toss it in the trash!

And speaking of spools, here is our 400' long anchor chain, all spooled out on the ground. We mark it every 50 feet with alternating red and yellow paint so it's easier to keep track of how much we have left. The length of chain used to anchor depends on the depth of the water, so it's important to keep track. Over time, the paint wears off and needs to be renewed. This time, we also had the entire chain re-galvanized, so it looks shiny and brand new! I'm rather unnaturally excited about this, so I'm sharing it with you, my quilty friends.

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.