Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sunrise and Twilight

A couple of weeks ago I bought a small charm pack of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons. They were so beautiful I wanted to make something right away that I could enjoy. Time for a little selfish sewing! A quick back of the envelope calculation showed that there would be just about enough fabric to make the fronts of two pillow covers.

So I stitched them together into quarter square triangles in the same rainbow order they came in the pack. And when this groovy Brother Sister Design yardage showed up in my mailbox later, I knew it would be perfect for the borders and envelope-style backs.

The cooler colors remind me of the sky in the late evening, so this pillow is Twilight. I quilted it with my walking foot in straight lines about an eighth of an inch on either side of the diagonal seams.

The warmer colors look like a rosy dawn to me, so this pillow is Sunrise. It is also quilted by walking foot, using an easy, liberated orange peel design. All told, the quilting on both pillows took less than an hour, and the piecing maybe an hour and a half. Fast and fun!

We anchored last night in the Caloosahatchee River, near the town of La Belle, FL. We dropped our dinghy and went ashore for dinner. When we returned, lights from onshore made our boat ride on her reflection in the dark, calm water. I love my floating home and am tickled pink to have new pillows for the couch!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gifts Given and Received

We are in Fort Myers, FL, where we spent a very pleasant and quiet Christmas. One of the downtown restaurants, The Twisted Vine Bistro, had a nice holiday buffet dinner, with all the traditional flavors. I enjoyed pinot grigio, prime rib, turkey, potatoes au gratin, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, coffee, pumpkin pie and sugar cookies without lifting a finger to cook or clean. The food was quite good and the servers were upbeat and pleasant.

The restaurant's cute logo features a cork screw and grapes, which leads me right into today's post!

This set of nine napkins, and the eight placemats at the top of the post, were made as a holiday gift for friends. They entertain quite a bit, filling their home with food, laughter and wine. I had decent sized scraps of lots of wine-themed fabrics and was able to stitch up this set following this tutorial video for both placemats and napkins, very straightforward.

Here are two of my favorite placemats. I really like the tumbling wine glasses fabric. To make the placemat tops, I simply cut 19" long strips of the various fabrics, in widths from about 4" to 8", and mixed them up to maximize contrast between the fabrics. 

For the backs, I used all the same fabric. I thought this pretty apple design with gold metallic accents could be used in the autumn if my friends wanted their table to be more matchy-matchy. Solid color napkins would look nice with this side. And if you're wondering why there are 8 placemats and 9 napkins, well, one of the napkins is all beer bottles! I usually prefer beer over wine, so that napkin was selfishly made for myself to use when I visit them.

DH and I don't exchange gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or holidays, preferring to celebrate those days with meals in fancy restaurants. But occasionally one of us will splurge on some item, claiming, "This will be my birthday/St. Patrick's Day/Winter Solstice present this year!" Earlier this month I was very excited to receive several big boxes containing my similarly self-appointed Christmas gift.

I've been storing my scraps strips, sorted by color, in recycled Kleenex tissue boxes. They sit on the small bathroom counter of the stateroom where I sew, stacked haphazardly. I was satisfied with the size (and price!) of the boxes, but they don't nest or stack nicely. I tend to cut my scrap strips on the fly as I'm cutting for other projects, and this system didn't make it easy to just pop one or two strips into the right bin without shuffling the whole stack.

So I treated myself to a set of multi-color Akro bins. Oooo! Aaaah! So pretty! So sturdy! So stackable! So open in the front for easy access, no matter how high the stack!

Each bin cost about $4-$5, with price varying by color. That's a bit odd, but the most odd thing is that an orange bin costs $18!! Even though it pained my rainbow-colored soul to leave the orange one behind, it just bugged me to pay THAT much more for a single color. Besides, I've been grouping yellow and orange together in a single Kleenex box anyway.

Here they are, stuffed with scraps and sitting on the bathroom counter. I'm using the taupe one for light colored neutrals, the black one for dark neutrals, and the clear one for bright multi/rainbow scraps. 

The two extras, another clear and a light blue, will be used for various other scrap projects. Right now they hold 4.5" squares and 2.5" four patches. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my eyes peeled on eBay for a used orange bin to make my set complete.

Now if I can only figure out a good system for the other side of the bathroom counter, where I stage larger scraps and FQs to be filed, and general miscellany. Sigh. Hey, Akro makes a wider, shallower bin that might work, stacked 3-4 high...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2018 Planning Party

2018 Planning Party

Yvonne at Quilting Jet Girl is having a link up for sharing our quilty plans, goals and resolutions for 2018. In the boating world, "plan" is a four letter word. The humans make a plan, and the boat laughs and laughs and laughs! The mechanical state of the vessel and the whims of the weather are really in control here. So we always use the word "goal" to talk about where we might wander next.

My quilting path also wanders. I buy lots of weird, used fabrics and get inspired by them. My scraps pile up, getting in the way, so I stitch up a scrap quilt. Babies are born, friends suffer losses, quilts are needed for comfort. Another blogger posts a fabulous finish and SQUIRREL! I gotta make my own version!

I'm extraordinarily lucky to be able to quilt whatever I want, whenever I want. Therefore, I resolve to keep on doin' what I'm doin'.

{Lowers voice to a whisper so the boat doesn't hear} Just between you and me, though, we're hoping to cruise for about six months through the Bahamas and Caribbean islands. That means my access to quilting supplies will be extremely limited from late January to around June or July. {Something goes TWANG, CLUNK!! on the boat} It's a goal! Only a goal! Not a plan! Sheesh.

Anyway, I'm kinda sorta thinking I should maybe probably have about six months worth of quilting stuff on board, just in case. Last year I finished 37 quilts, almost all of them baby, toddler, or lap sized. That felt like a good pace for me, around 3 per month, so I'll use that number as a guideline. And this blog post is a great place to calculate and record what I need to continue that pace.

In the first half of 2018, I will need the following items:

Fabric: I'd only be fooling myself if I said I needed any more fabric. My stash is up to the task, I'm pretty sure. The only exception might be light/low volume pieces, which is what I run out of the soonest.

Best Press: I don't use conventional starch, because I really don't want anything that might attract bugs. There are plenty of bugs in my life already, living on the water as I do. I have one of the big refill bottles of unscented Best Press and it's about half full. I think that's enough. If I run out, I can live without it. I do carry a spare iron, just in case!

Batting: 3 quilts a month for 6 months = 18 quilts. Let's round up to 20, just in case. My quilts average about 50" square, or 2,500 square inches. So I need at least 50,000 sq. in. Wow, that looks like a really big number! However, a king sized package of batting is 120"x124"=14,800 sq. in. So four packages should be plenty. I also have some batting already on hand and some scraps to make Frankenbatting, which gives me some wiggle room.

Thread: I have at least 50 full spools of thread. I use mostly Aurifil 40 or 50 wt in the larger size spools. Should be plenty.

Needles: OK, confession time. I don't change my sewing machine needle often enough. They say you should install a new needle when you start a new project, but my projects overlap and intermingle, so I forget until I get the dreaded clunking/popping sound. So I resolve to change my needle more often, and I'm going to buy at least 10 shiny new ones.

Rotary cutter blades: Like needles, I know I don't change 'em often enough. I have four new ones on hand, three of which are the titanium ones. What do you think? Is that enough?

505 Basting Spray: This is my preferred basting method, so I use a lot of it. I get 2-3 quilts from one of the larger cans, so I need at least 3 to last six months. I only have 2 small cans on hand, so I'll order 3 big ones. Aerosol cans aren't supposed to be shipped via air, so they need a longer lead time to be ordered. Better get cracking on this one!

Freezer paper: I've never used it, but who knows? This season might be the time I'm inspired to try it. It's about $6 at Walmart and I'm guessing it's $20 in the Bahamas, so it's a no-brainer to just stock some now.

Shipping boxes: I typically mail off my charity quilts after I accumulate 2 or 3 of them, but paying overseas postage for that will probably be pricey and hard to track. However, we'd like to stop in the US Virgin Islands for a while, so I should be able to use the US Post Office there at standard shipping rates. After this year's terrible hurricane season, I know some supplies might be limited, so I'll bring my own Priority Mail boxes. 6 Large Flat Rate boxes should do it.

As Provisioner in Chief, I'm responsible for making the same sorts of lists and calculations for everything else except boat maintenance items. I have a big spreadsheet that shows our monthly needs for food, paper goods, toiletries, the kitty's needs, etc. Most of it has to be purchased and stored before we leave the USA.

Our previous experience in the Bahamas has showed us that some fruits and veggies are readily available, but expensive. (Yes, that's a $3.30 cucumber and we were happy to pay it.) Decent meat is very hard to find. Beer is plentiful, but outrageously expensive. Toilet paper is scarce and precious. And our cat's prescription diet is impossible to buy. So my first several weeks of the new year will be filled with trips to the store, most of them aboard my little motor scooter. Then I'll remove all the packaging and tuck stuff into every nook and cranny of the boat. Our freezer will be stuffed to bursting with protein, and our bilges full of beer. Then we'll sail off into the sunset!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Scrappy Christmas flimsy

We are in St. Petersburg, FL where several of our friends live. We're only here for about a week, so it's been a whirlwind of social visits and fun events. In quiet moments I was able to piece up this Christmas quilt top.

After I finished my tree skirt flimsy last week, I realized I had a lot of holiday-themed scraps. Most were already cut into 2.5" wide strips, so I went looking for a pattern to use them. 

This is a nice freebie from P&B Textiles, called Illustrations. Click here for the free pattern. I liked the offset barn raising layout and how the black and green little squares alternated. On my quilt, I used scrappy black and red for the small squares, and separated my strips into darks and lights. 

Almost all my holiday scraps are fairly dark reds and greens, and I'm happy to say that I was only short about 5 or 6 strips for the entire quilt! I pulled a few greens from my regular scraps and I was all set. My Christmas scraps are completely used up, wahoo!! The lights were the entirely opposite story, though. There might be only 6 light strips that are "holiday" themed (mostly snowflakes) and I had to fill in the entire rest of the quilt from my regular off white and cream scraps. 

I won't get this finished into a quilt this year, but really enjoyed working with all the pretty Christmas fabrics: poinsettias, holly, ornaments, etc. And since all my scraps are now used up and I can shop guilt-free for more holiday fabric in April when it's all on sale. I've learned my lesson, though, and will make sure to also buy plenty of coordinating light shades.

This pattern was a keeper, too. I'm sorry I didn't take photos until the top was finished, but here's a cropped photo showing an individual block. Every block has the identical layout so it's a fast chain piecer for sure. The 12" finished block uses all 2.5" strips and each block ends up half light and half dark, like a pixelated HST. So the blocks can be put together into all the same larger patterns as any HST, not just barn raising. 

Linking up with Oh, Scrap!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Yet another cat quilt finish

Huh. I could have sworn I blogged about this quilt when it was just a flimsy, but I guess I never did. Well, here it is all finished, ta da! The (free!) pattern is "Pins and Paws" from the Missouri Star Quilt Co., a simple block of kitty silhouettes. I'm calling it Pins and Paws and Plenty of Purple.

The border fabric set the color scheme of blues, greens, yellows and purples. 

I quilted it with a feather and swirl motif, using 40 wt yellow thread. Many of the feathers are quite wonky, and of course the wonkiest ones ended up on the dark, contrasting fabrics. Oh well, it was good practice.

The later feathers were smoother as I found a rhythm that worked for my hands. I've been really frustrated by feathers until I gave myself permission to let the lobes be separated and not touching each other. Those "bump back" feathers just don't flow for me!

The backing is yet another piece of the yellow plaid, which hides the yellow thread but lets the texture show. This will be a donation quilt for Project Linus.


Angel says feathers are for the birds. She sitting between my two Christmas pillows, and on top of a small Christmas lap quilt that you can't see.

And speaking of Christmas, I pieced this tree skirt flimsy from largish-sized holiday-themed scraps. The (free!) pattern is "Fruitcake Under My Tree" from the Moda Bakeshop. The kind of tree that needs a skirt won't work on our boat, so this will be gift. For someone. But probably not this year. All the smaller scraps from this and other Christmas sewing started whispering my name, so I dropped everything else and have been piecing up a different (free!) pattern using those. More on that later.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Quilts in the wild

One of the things I really enjoy when reading quilting blogs is seeing your finished quilts being used. So I thought I'd share a few of my finished quilts "in the wild," where they are being used by their recipients. The lap quilt in the top photo was given to my friend A back in August of 2015. (Those are DH's knees, not A's.)

A recently moved to a new home, and the quilt decorates his bedroom. It's really a small quilt. I make them a bit bigger now, but this was pretty early in my quilting career.

As you can see, the quilt and matching mini quilt are the only sources of color in this room. I'm glad I chose fairly subtle batiks for this piece. He's a true minimalist, so I'm really touched that he chose to put my quilt in a place of honor. 

This baby quilt was made in August of this year. I sewed it because the pretty fabrics whispered in my ear to be used, but I didn't know who to give it to. Usually I donate baby/toddler quilts to charity, but this one wanted to live with me for a while. In October, I learned that dear friend J became a first time grandmother to little Ryleigh, who was born just a few days before I finished the quilt. Well! Clearly, this is Ryleigh's quilt! Right now it is living at Grandma J's house, waiting for the next visit.

She's a cutie patootie, for sure! I hope Great Grandma Dee will send me a photo of the baby on the quilt, because those are the best pics, aren't they?

This little quilt was made for my artist friend, Maria, who had her first baby just a few months ago. I was inspired by the paintings of a tree in each of the four seasons, created by Maria, her hubby, her mom and her MIL. Maria chose to hang the quilt with the paintings and I'm touched that she considers it wall-worthy! We'll be meeting Maria and her new family in the next few weeks.

And finally, I gave this funky cat quilt to my fun and funny cousin Renee. Like me, she's a maker (knitting is her groove thang) and a bit of a crazy cat (and dog) lady, so I knew it would amuse her. She sent this photo of it draped across her special knitting chair where it lies ready to cuddle under on chilly evenings in her northeast city.

Got any photos of your quilts living in their forever homes? I'd love to see them!