Monday, May 22, 2017

Hands2Help 2017

The Hands2Help Charity Challenge is ending this week, and Sarah has asked us to write up our summaries. I finished two of the three quilts I planned to make. In the photo above, the top quilt, Fernville Seasons, will be donated to Happy Chemo. The bottom quilt, Veggie Mountain, is going to the refugee support group International Institute of St. Louis.

This post has more photos about Fernville Seasons. 

This post  has more about Veggie Mountain.

I started a third quilt for the third charity, Camp Hobe. It is a finished flimsy, but I still need to baste, quilt and bind it. Sarah says that all three charities accept donations all year, so I'll keep working toward finishing that one as soon as possible and will share photos and details here then.

It has been a busy couple of weeks here. We had overnight guests, which meant that my quilt studio in the guest stateroom had to be completely put away. All the pieces are still squirreled away in various parts of the boat and I haven't actually done any sewing in about two weeks. But today I managed to at least get all my charity donations boxed up and ready to ship out.

In addition to the H2H quilts, I boxed up the Project Linus quilts I wrote about in this post. The six blocks in the photo above are for the Covered In Love block drive. This time the quilts are being assembled by Cynthia of Quilting is More Fun Than Housework. Thanks, Cynthia!

As part of clearing out the guest room, I wanted to corral all my tiny cutting scraps. I use them to stuff pet beds that I donate to the closest local animal shelter. This batch of six will go to the Port Aransas, TX shelter. They aren't large, sized to fit cats or small dogs, but they are quite heavy and dense! I used this tutorial to make the beds this time, and I really like how they turned out. The channeling should keep the scrap bits inside from clumping up in one end.

Here are all the boxes of quilts, ready to ship. It will be a challenge to fit them all on a motor scooter, but the trip to the post office is fairly short. I'm glad to have this big stack of boxes and the pile of pet beds off the boat and released into the wild!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Waterloo on a galloping horse

Veggie Mountain is finished. This twin sized quilt, about 66" x 88", is the biggest single quilt I've ever made.* It will be a long time before I tackle another one as large, as this one proved to be my Waterloo. I know there are people who can push much larger quilts through their domestic sewing machines, but the weight and bulk of this one really tired me out!

*I did make a queen size for our own bed, but it was four separate quilt as you go pieces, each section about the size of a lap quilt. Much more manageable.

Just finding a place on the boat to take a photo was a challenge. Our ceilings are only about 80" tall and the quilt dragged on the floor. It's been very, very windy this week in Galveston, TX, so outside shots were tricky. This one was taken at the Moody Gardens Hotel's dock, which was spectacularly coated with bird poop. In addition to worrying about the quilt blowing away into the water, I worried about it falling in the guano!

The pattern for this quilt is Majestic Mountains, or Scrappy Mountains Majesty. I used twenty fat quarters of vegetable themed fabrics and a bright green background yardage. The charity requested quilts of at least twin size, so to fatten it up, I added a thin orange inner border and a wide, dark green tonal outer border. The binding is another, slightly different bright green with tiny hearts.

The background fabric is a cream and yellow rooster print, which is thicker than regular quilting cotton and made the quilt heavier. It has a nice heft to it, but boy was it a struggle to quilt! However, I had enough of the chickens to cover the entire back with just a single seam. And I think chickens and veggies go nicely together.

I had grand visions of elaborate free motion quilting in the background "mountains," but in the end I did simple straight lines with my walking foot. As I was quilting, it seemed like there were a lot of puckers, and several lines needed to be ripped out. Quite a few cranky words were spoken. Not all of my times in the sewing studio were joyful.

That wide green border also seemed sort of plain and boring with just straight lines that intersected in the corners. I decided to stitch a message in a contrasting thread color. Since this quilt is destined for a refugee family via one of the Hands2Help charities, "Welcome" was the message I wanted to send. Actually, I wanted to say, "Welcome to America! We're so glad you are here. May your family find peace, joy, and prosperity in the land of the free." However, my handwriting is not up to the task. It's a little known fact about me that I never learned how to do cursive writing. My family moved between my second and third grade school years, and I somehow managed to be in the wrong state each year and missed cursive lessons altogether. I can struggle through a word or two, but that's it.

Oh well, "Welcome" is a good word. It gets the message across. And both my handwriting and my slightly puckered quilting look fine from a galloping horse. In fact, after a good wash and dry and crinkle, I'm pretty happy with it. And the most important thing is that this bright quilt with a universal theme of fresh vegetables will comfort a family who may have arrived in the United States with very little. 

Linking up with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop, because I'm pleased to be finished!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Three for Tuesday

We are in Lake Charles, LA and docked at the L'Auberge Casino's little marina. With unlimited power and water here, I decided to get some quilts finished so they could have their spa day in the washer and dryer.

I pieced all three of these baby/toddler quilts while we were living in the RV last month. Once we were back on the boat, I got them all basted. And in the last several days I quilted and bound them. I had high hopes for a higher class of glamour shots, but no sun today, alas. 

You'll have to settle for the classic "rolled up quilts with murky marina water in the background" shot.  All three of these quilts will be donated to Project Linus.

Left to right in the top photo: Pretty Pink Sixteen is made of most of my flannel stash. There is no batting in this one, just two layers of flannel. I did simple cross hatch quilting through the diagonals of all the squares. The binding is regular quilt cotton, sew onto the back. I then sewed it to the front by machine. In this photo you can see the front with edge stitching holding the binding on.

Here's the back, which is long strips of flannel. The line of stitching about 1/4" inside the binding is that top stitching from the front. It's fairly unobtrusive on the back. I really like this binding method and feel like I get pretty consistent results on both back and front.

The middle quilt is a cute soft book panel of bugs and frogs, alternating with lime green seersucker with tiny fruits. So cute! It's called Garden Friends, and I quilted it with turquoise thread in big loop-de-loops. The texture is great, but my loops are, um, lumpy. Stippling is much easier for me and my new rallying cry is, "Stick With The Stipple, Louise! Lumpy Loops Are Lousy!" The binding on this one is rainbow satin blanket binding, but applied like regular double fold quilt binding. 

Here's an overall shot of that quilt so you see how the rainbow pattern on the binding repeats around the edge. This quilt doesn't have great contrast between the blocks so it looks better up close when your eye is drawn to the cute critters. I doubt a toddler will be very critical, though.

I adore the fabric I used to back this little quilt. Check out all the fun animals in sherbet colors! I had one yard of this and used it all.

To fill out the rest of the backing, I used some more of the seersucker. There's a photo of the flimsy that shows the colors better in this post.

The final quilt, Little Boy Blue, was made from a panel plus 25 patch scrappy blocks. See this post for the flimsy pictures. I bound it in the same darker blue as the sashing. The backing is a single piece of fun animals driving cars, with stop signs and words like "Vroom!" That fabric was just a teeeeensy bit small, and one of the selvedges showed after I finished the quilting. On this one, I sewed the binding it to the front first so the slightly wider part of the binding would be on the back and cover the selvedge bits.

Here's a shot of the front binding. To attach the back, I stitched in the ditch right next to the binding on the front. It makes a very clean, nice front finish. Unfortunately, it means I was sewing blind to catch the binding in the back, and that ended up pretty wobbly and inconsistent. The crinkling from washing hides a lot of the wobble and again, the toddler won't care, but I need lots more practice in this method before I'm as happy with it as the reverse method!m

Linking up to Sew Some Love, a linky for charity projects on Kat and Cat Quilts.

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.