Thursday, July 20, 2017

Winner, winner

The winner of last week's random drawing is lucky number 13, JanineMarie of Quilts From the Little House. Janine is finishing up her improv piece called Deconstructed Coins. I just love that quilt, and can't wait to see the final quilting and binding. Go check out her latest post, where you can peek at the finished flimsy and her improvised pieced backing. Congratulations, Janine! A little bit of purple fabric will be winging it's way to you soon!

I finished two little toddler quilts this week. This one uses a fish fabric for the focal blocks and simple four patches for the alternate blocks. Simple cross hatch quilting with my walking foot made for a speedy finish.

For the back, I used one of my new pieces of fabric from Lydia. It's nice how these little quilts can be backed with a single width of fabric and no piecing.

This one features all cat and mouse fabrics. The pattern is called County Lines, and it pieces up very easily. I quilted it with a relaxed meander in turquoise thread and finished with a stripey binding on both quilts. They will both be donated to my old Project Linus group in California.

We are settling in at our marina in Charleston. This gorgeous yacht is one of our closest neighbors. She's 120 feet long and recently sold for $13,000,000. The only people we've seen aboard her are crew members. There have often been dramatic thunderstorms in the afternoons, and I love the dark, brooding sky in this photo.

On the less glamorous side of things, this wad of icky, stinky marine....stuff...was clogging the intake to our air conditioners. When the bedroom a/c stopped, we scratched our heads. But when the quilt room a/c failed with a sigh, THAT really got my attention! Stop everything and fix it now!! Fortunately, Sean is an excellent Chief Engineer, and got the cool air flowing again in about an hour. Whew!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Christmas in July

This is the time of year when quilters start thinking about holiday projects. Lots of folks are posting tutorials and photos of Christmas themed quilts. But that's not what I'm talking about today. No, today I'm sharing the fantastic gift I received in the mail yesterday. Look at that giant, 15 pound box! Even though it has "6 cans rice brown/white" written on it...

It was full of FABRIC! And not just any fabric, FREE fabric! Lovely, high quality, brand name fabric, like Moda, Jinny Beyer, Andover, Timeless Treasures, Rowan/Westminster, RJR, and more. A sweet eBay seller named Lydia sent me a big chunk of her stash after she learned that I sew for Project Linus and other charities. Opening this treasure trove was like Christmas morning!

I pulled out each piece and refolded them, sorting into piles. This stack is all yardage of light colored blenders. At least half of these are two yard pieces. Look at all those soft colors! These will be great for background neutrals.

Here's a stack of stripes, always great for bindings. I love that wild color combo in the middle!

I think this wonky grid in pale green is fun and modern. That mottled green underneath is the softest cotton, ever. Such quality stuff. And I use greens all the time and always need more.

From the big batch of more patterned pieces, here are a few of my favorites. Love the bright saturated hot colors in this big, bold poppy print.

Yellow paisley, purple tendrils, and leafy garden goodness? Yes, please! 

Fat quarters of candy canes, butterflies, monkeys and musical instruments will work so well with my other novelty fabrics. Can you say, "I-Spy?"

And just look at this huge stack of rainbow blenders! Each one is at least a fat quarter, some are half yards. Yum!

Last but not least, this full yard of black with iridescent metallic stars has some serious "Wow!" factor. It shimmers and sparkles. I originally found Lydia's fabric listings because she was selling some of her other metallic fabrics. I bought a bunch from her, and that started our conversation about destashing and charity sewing. I never dreamed that she would end up sending me over 40 yards of free fabric!

I'm so touched and thrilled by Lydia's generosity, and want to pay it forward. If you've read this far, you can win a prize by leaving a comment below. Tell me either your favorite color, or a color that is missing from your stash, and I'll send you a couple fat quarters of that color plus a brand new Hera marker. I'll choose the winner by random drawing a week from today, Thursday, July 20th. And yes, I will ship internationally. Someone sent me ~$400 worth of fabric for free, the least I can do is pop a few FQs in the mail, even to Australia. Good luck!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fancy schmancy ruler

Yesterday I stitched up two "mariner's compass" star blocks using a ruler that I purchased at the big Houston show in 2015. It's the first time I've used the ruler because the instructions were a bit daunting. 

The ruler is called "Skinny Robin," and I think it was named after the inventor's daughter. The mother/daughter team demonstrated the ruler at the show and made it look super easy. Ha!

Here's the ruler. Sorry about the bits of blue tape, but they were necessary for me to keep track of what lined up where. The ruler can be used to create 16 different sizes of stars, so there are a LOT of lines and circles and teensy little numbers on the ruler. I made 10" blocks; the 8" and 12" lines are very, very close to the 10" lines. Sheesh.

Here's part of one of the SEVENTEEN pages of instructions to make a single star from the booklet. I bought this ruler because I didn't want to make a paper pieced star because, you know, paper piecing is complicated. Um, yeah.

The star at the top of this post was my first trial block. There was a lot of head scratching and grumbling during the construction, but I actually didn't have to rip or re-do anything. When followed step by step, the instructions do work well. The hardest part was actually sewing the circular star block into the square of background fabric. I made it red, white and blue so I can donate it to Kat's July/August block drive for Covered in Love. The red fabric is fried chicken drumsticks!

The second block went together much faster. Like taking 20 minutes vs. 2 hours faster. It is a secret squirrel project, so here's just a glimpse. The wrinkling you see in the white fabric on both stars is from setting a circle into a circle. All those bias edges tend to get a bit distorted, but I know they will settle down during quilting, and after washing will disappear completely.

So after two blocks, I admit that I kinda like this ruler. It doesn't make a truly traditional Mariner's Compass, but the resulting 16 point star is quite nice. The points are very pointy and I didn't have to tear any paper. The stars start from four strips of fabric and the amount of cutting waste is acceptable to me. I'm thinking I might try some wild, scrappy combos since my scraps bins are already full of strips that are a good width for this 10" size star.

In other news, Bright Astrodelic washed up  nicely. I love how uniform the crinkliness is on the spirals. The stiff black mottled background softened up quite a bit and the quilt is good and drapey.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bee blocks

We are docked in Charleston, SC after our 48 hour passage from Fort Lauderdale. The trip was incredibly calm for about 40 of those hours, and I got a little sewing done. These two blocks are for a do.Good Stitches bee. A friend asked me to fill in for her this month since she is traveling and away from her sewing machine.

The block is a variation of "Orchid Orchestration," and I really like it. The Queen Bee asked for all yellow and white, which will make this cool yellow zig zag across the quilt. It also would be fun to do all scrappy, with a consistent background color. Brights against navy blue, perhaps?

During the calm part of the trip, Angel Kitty was extremely relaxed. I caught her fast asleep and drooling a little bit next to me on the pilot house settee. Even during the rougher part of the passage, she seemed comfortable. The boat moved A LOT during my final night watch, consistently rolling 15 degrees and occasionally as much as 35-40 degrees. You can imagine what that does to anything that isn't well secured, and we found out exactly which things needed to be tied down more firmly. Several boxes of my scraps are now one large, multicolored pile on the floor, and I found a bowl of fruit teetering on the edge of the counter just in time to save it from becoming mushy fruit salad.

Fortunately, the rolling was a large, smooth motion and not short and jerky, so no one got seasick and nothing was damaged. But neither one of us slept much Thursday night, so we went to bed early last night and crashed a full 12 hours each! Now we're tied up at a marina with all the HUGE fancy yachts, so we have lots of eye candy. We'll be here at least a month and a half while we catch up on dental visits, routine doctor's appointments, projects, etc. This is also where we will observe the full solar eclipse in mid August.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bright Astrodelic finish

Bright Astrodelic is spiral quilted and bound. It's an explosion of hot colors!

We are currently docked in downtown Fort Lauderdale and I was able to toss the quilt onto various objects for some photos. My "Kilroy Was Here" quilt holdin' husband was still asleep so I made do with benches and bushes.

The red leaves on this plant are almost as bright as my fabrics. South Florida is not afraid of color, that's for sure.

This nice fountain was only a few hundred feet from our boat. The downtown docks are on the New River. It was super busy last night with many, many boats returning from watching the 4th of July fireworks from downriver. The fireworks were shot over the beach, but we decided to just stay on board this year rather than fight the crowds. It was entertaining to watch the parade of boats as they jostled and bounced back up river around 10pm, while we calmly sipped ice cold beer.

The back of the quilt is a simple framed square. It looks solid black in this photo.

However, it's actually this rather busy print with gold metallic accents. The spiral quilting is completely invisible on the dark fabric, but you can see it easily on the sweet candy hearts outer border.

This close up shows the quilting on the front pretty well. I changed top thread color every seven go-rounds, using yellow, red, and orange threads. The spacing between spirals is about the width of my walking foot. The quilting took a loooooong time, but I'm pretty happy with it. I did a black and yellow flanged binding to give the edge sharp definition. The yellow flange actually has flecks of the pink, red and orange in it. Fun!

I started the center spiral with a circle about 4" in diameter using the walking foot. Then I used my FMQ foot to spiral back in to a smaller center. I knew it would be a bit wobbly, so I chose the red thread for the center, which is more forgiving against the black.

We'll see how it looks after washing. Right now, it's fairly stiff, but some of that comes from the black marbled background fabric. It was an off brand and full of sizing.

Today we leave on our final open ocean passage for a while. We'll be going straight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Charleston, SC. Depending on how much of a boost we get from the Gulf Stream, that should take between 50 and 60 hours. I'm hoping we'll have internet for a couple of hours at the beginning and end of the trip, and calm seas in the middle so I can sew!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Quick update

We are underway across the Gulf of Mexico between Mobile,  AL and Tampa,  FL. The whole trip will take about 48 hours, and we expect that at least 40 of those will be without any internet.

I've decided to do spiral quilting on Bright Astrodelic. That should keep me busy if the seas are calm enough to sew. See you in a couple days!

PS: In addition to our high power marine radios, we have a satellite phone on board for emergencies. We also use it to update our status and position through this Twitter account so that friends and family can see that we are safe.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Happy news!

You may remember this quilt, called C's Canines, that I made for the granddaughter of our boating friends. C was scheduled to have surgery this month and I thought a cheerful dog-themed quilt in her very favorite colors would help.

C received her quilt the other day, and I think this big smile shows how much she loves it. I'm also very, very happy to report that her surgery went well! I like to think that little quilt helped; it certainly was filled with all my wishes and hopes for the very best results. It's always special for us quilters to see our work in use, and an extra special bonus to see it topped with a toothy smile.

My next project is cat-themed, and here is one of the nine blocks. The cats are part of a fun Makower UK panel that I've had for several years. I love their happy faces, but the dark colors (red, blue, green and gold) didn't seem very child-like to me. Then a few weeks ago I bought a fat quarter bundle of star fabrics on eBay in just those same colors. The stars are actually slightly raised, a bit rubbery, shiny and iridescent. So fun!

The eBay seller and I had several back and forth conversations where she admitted that she was disappointed at how low the bidding was on her stash of fabrics. (I got a smokin' good deal on the stars.) I told her that I was going to use my purchases for charity sewing, and that seemed to please her. Two weeks later, she wrote again to say she was sending me the rest of her stash for free! Wow! That inspired me to start the cat quilt, so I can send her photos. When I get her shipment, I'll let you know what sorts of goodies she is sending.

Several commenters have asked how we're doing in Tropical Storm Cindy. We're safely docked at a marina in Biloxi, MS. The docks here are very sturdy concrete and behind a protective sea wall. Mostly we've just had tons of rain and minor coastal flooding. The highest wind gust we've seen was 44mph. You can see in this photo that the water came up to just inches below our dock, so we are still able to climb off the boat (the dock is a loooong way down) and go ashore.

The marina is right next door to the Golden Nugget casino, and it is only about 500 feet from the boat to their dry parking garage. We're not gamblers, but it's nice to have access to the casino's restaurants and spa. I thought this carpet pattern in one of the hallways would make an interesting quilt, too. A couple of jelly roll strips, some HSTs...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Twist N Scrap

Whoop, whoop! Twist N Scrap is a finish. I started piecing this quilt back in July, so it is almost a year in the making. For me, that's a looooong time.

I was discouraged with this piece because the background fabric turned out to have quite a bit of polyester in it. I didn't know how it would quilt up, or how it would shrink in the wash. So it ended up being tucked away, out of sight, out of mind.

When I was straightening up some drawers last week, I came across the finished flimsy again and decided to use it for some FMQ practice. I figured I would know pretty fast if the quilting was an issue. I chose a sort of Maltese cross motif for the background and got to work. The poly blend fabric has a tighter weave than quilting cottons, so the needle made more popping, punching sounds in areas like the very center of the crosses where lots of seams come together. Other than that, though, things went pretty smoothly.

In each of the square interlocking "pretzels," I tried various other fillers. I think the hearts in this red fabric turned out pretty well. I was inspired by Fiona's heart quilting over on Bubz Rugs. Most of the other fills are simpler than the hearts: easy back and forth, loop-de-loops, and stippling. 

I think the Maltese cross looks cool in the corners, where only a quarter of the shape shows. Since the whole piece is super scrappy, I used more scraps for the binding. This black, gold and royal blue bit is my favorite.

The backing is all flannel, so it's very soft and snuggly. That turquoise blue has a butterfly motif.

It's our last day in the boatyard in New Orleans. They are finishing up the last little bits of paint touch up, so there are spots of wet paint everywhere. It made it tricky to find place to take photos without making a mess of both quilt and boat! Several worrisome weather systems are spinning up, so it's high time for us to skedaddle out of the hurricane zone. 

Edited to add a post-washer and dryer wrinkly crinkly shot. I'm doing a little happy dance with how all the different fabrics played together! Flannel, quilting cotton and poly-cotton blend all shrink differently, but displayed excellent teamwork in this little quilt.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Finishes galore

It's a gloomy, overcast day here in our New Orleans boatyard digs. However, the wind isn't blowing so I was able to pin up my latest quilty projects for some photos. From left to right: Gulf Coast Churn Dash after washing and drying; Hobe Horses; an as yet to be named chicken-themed flimsy; Winter Magic; and 3-D Play Mat.

Hobe Horses is my Hands2Help quilt for Camp Hobe, a charity sponsored by StashBox. Camp Hobe is for kids with cancer and their siblings, a place with all the fun and activities of summer camp that also provides necessary medical support. While the H2H challenge is over, Sarah let us know that quilts sent in after the deadline are still welcome!

This horse-themed quilt is simple patchwork with sashing and cornerstones to let the big focal pieces take center stage. It took me a while to accumulate enough horse fabric to make an entire quilt. Apparently, horses are fairly difficult to draw, because there is a LOT of really ugly, anatomically incorrect horse flesh out there in the fabric world.

I quilted Hobe Horses in simple, horizontal wavy lines, like wind through the horses manes. The backing is an odd olive green leaf print that actually works well with the browns and greens on the front. I hope an equine-crazy kid enjoys all the different horsey goodness on the front.

Next up is this finished quilt top featuring chicken fabrics. I really liked how the hourglass blocks in Gulf Coast Churn Dash set off the chunky churns, so I decided to do some more experimenting. This time, I used three color hourglasses to outline small square focal pieces cut from a panel.

Each panel square features a different chicken inside a wood frame, surrounded by black. The chickens have funny names ("Remedios"?) and light blue backgrounds. Half of the panel blocks end up surrounded by the yellow parts of the hourglasses. The yellow has little chicks hatching out of eggs.

The rest of the big chickens ("Blakey"? Who names a chicken "Blakey"?) are surrounded by red fabric with tiny drumsticks. Is this fate? Is Blakey destined to end up at KFC?

Winter Magic is made from another panel, and features dogs and snowmen. It isn't specifically a Christmas panel, although one of the dogs seems to be wearing reindeer antlers. The flags say, "Wishing you the blessings of magic on this crisp winter day!" "Make every day a parade!" and "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" The panel was only 24" wide, so I added side pieces to bring the whole thing to about 36" x 42", a good size baby or toddler quilt.

The backing is this snowflake patterned fine-wale corduroy, which makes it fairly heavy and warm. I decided that putting a layer of batting in would make the whole thing a bit TOO thick and warm, so I used a layer of flannel instead. It is finished pillowcase style with no binding.

To keep it soft and drapey, I did minimal quilting. The printed panel has a thin line of black around the characters, and that sort of looked like stitching to me. So I echoed around that line with white thread so the whimsical scenes would poof out a bit. I also outlined the swirling snow border to keep the little quilt lightly but evenly quilted. I did have grand plans to do lots of FMQ swirling motifs, but after I stitched up an area about 5"x 5", it was clear that the whole quilt would be much too stiff that way, so rip rip rip, out it came. 

3-D Play Mat is a scrappy experiment that started when the Covered in Love block drive featured a pleated, textured block. I had so much fun making that block that I went looking for other three dimensional tutorials. That led me to Teresa Down Under's Sewn Up blog and her series of textured 4-patches.
Someone wise suggested using coordinating colors when sewing up sample blocks, so I chose cream, turquoise, red and pink fabrics.


The first block I made riffed on Kat's pleated block, which she called Grandad's Shirts. This isn't the same block, but used the same pleat technique.

After that, I dove into Teresa's blocks. I tried Prairie Point Pinwheels,

Origami pinwheel (which is quite thick), 

and several bias edge manipulation blocks including this fussy cut bird and several flying geese. Teresa's tutorials also include a large number of smocking, ruffles and elaborate pin tucks that looked really hard. But now that I've finished this little sampler, I think I might try my hand at one or two of them.

The blocks are sashed with a bold black and white polka dot and the backing is a dark red dot on white corduroy. The overall size is 39" x 39". Like Winter Magic, I used flannel instead of batting and a no-binding finish. I kept the quilting very minimal, just enough to hold things in place. I thought the soft but busy 3-D blocks would be fun for a baby to explore while having "tummy time," so I think of this as a floor mat rather than a blanket.

Linking up with Oh, Scrap! and Scraptastic Tuesday this week.