Friday, October 5, 2018

Trimming and curves

I'm usually not very good about taking in-process photos, so I know it often looks like my finished quilts appear out of thin air. But I really do actually make blocks first!

In the last few weeks I've been plugging away on a couple of projects and remembered to snap a few pics.


These blocks have been waiting patiently in the WIP box for a while. I had to check my archives to see how long...two years! I made a fairly large chunk of fabric out of science and math themed fabric, then cut it into 10" circles. I set two of them into purple fabric, but decided I really wanted a gray background. The curved piecing was challenging and I didn't feel up to ripping out the purple, so I set the whole shebang aside.

I'm feeling more confident of my piecing now, so I cut the gray Essex linen fabric and set in 12 of these circle pieces. I used pins every 45 degrees around the whole circle. There are a few tiny tucks, you can see one near the bottom in this photo. But I know that linen will shrink and wrinkle, so that size tuck will magically disappear. 


This baggie is full of the "bonus triangles" trimmed from a baby quilt I made for my cousins Nate and Greer. There are 160 of them so I didn't want to waste them. But they are pretty small! After trimming, they are 1 7/8" and will finish at 1 3/8". If I just sewed them together, that's about enough for a doll quilt. I do have more of the yellow background used in every HST, so I can fatten them up a little bigger. But sheesh, that was HOURS of trimming for not much fabric. I'd rather spend those hours stitching together 10 times as many crumb scraps.

But I'm glad I did it, for several reasons. One, I now know that it isn't worth it to me to save that many small bonus triangles. I know someone who will take those scraps, so I'll save them for her. I'll keep larger scraps and do my HST scrap trimming as I go along, rather than save up hundreds to do at once.  Secondly, this batch motivated me to purchase and try the BlocLoc ruler, which is great! There's been a lot of hype about it, and I'll add to the kudos. It really does make HST trimming go much faster and more accurately.


Buying and liking the ruler motivated me to start another HST project. I had a nice selection of camping themed fabrics, all from the same line. I think they were sales samples because they were each 13" wide and various lengths. So I cut 6.5" squares to get as many from each fabric as possible, and used the "two at a time" HST method.


The fabrics included tents and campfires and bears and maps and trailers. Pretty cute line! I fattened up the pile of blocks with some blenders, and a novelty with s'mores, hot dogs, and those classic blue metal coffee pots. 


I have a young man who loves camping in mind as the eventual recipient of this quilt, but haven't chosen a layout for the blocks yet.


And finally, I've been making "Mendota" blocks for Sunshine Online Quilt Guild. These will eventually be made into tops at their retreat in June. Or, I'll get impatient and finish a quilt or two with them first. It's all good, because Sunshine's charities will benefit one way or another. This block is quite easy and fun. A 4" x WOF strip is plenty for the outer ring, and the centers are charm squares. So now when I have scraps that size, I cut a little "Mendota kit" and put them in a bin to be stitched when the mood strikes or as a leader/ender.

I am actually in California right now, helping a family member who had knee surgery. The healing is going more slowly than anticipated, so some friendly extra hands are needed, especially at night. I'm glad to be here, but too busy to do much more than scan a few blogs now and then. It's a nice mental break to see your quilty work, but please forgive me if I don't comment much for a week or so.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Lotto blocks


My latest finish is made almost completely by other people. All these 12" finished blocks were stitched by members of the Sunshine Online Quilt Guild. The lotto blocks for the month of July were pink and green, and I won the lotto!  A big stack of pink and green goodness arrived with our next batch of mail in August. 

The idea of setting them on point entered my brain and wouldn't leave. I picked out eight that looked nice at an angle and played well together, adding some hot pink sashing and setting triangles. Zip zoom, the top was finished.


This photo shows the colors much better, bright and saturated. And that block is one of my favorites! Finishing at 36"x52" this one struck me as a good candidate for a wheelchair quilt. 36" is a nice width so the quilt doesn't get caught in the wheels. I put a green and off white plaid on the back and quilted it up with floppy feathers in pink thread. A stripey binding finishes it off.


Because of the labeling requirements of various charities, I try to decide where a piece is going before I quilt it. For instance, both Wrap A Smile and Quilts Beyond Borders want labels with their names on them sewn onto the back. That's much easier to do before quilting. My own personal labels have machine wash and dry instructions on the back, so I don't use those on quilts going to other countries. My labels get sewn into the binding, like this.

The last few days we've been skedaddling south and in the open ocean off the shore of New Jersey. Unlike our trip north, the weather has been only OK, not great. The seas are rough enough that sewing is quite difficult, which hasn't stopped me from trying! After I fell off my sewing stool, though, I decided to just stick with a bit of fabric petting and organizing. And no, I didn't hurt my body, but my pride got a bit bruised. Nothing like finding yourself on your butt, wedged under your sewing machine, for tasting a little humble pie. Mmmmm, pie.

All my panels had been hanging in my clothes closet but were a bit "out of sight, out of mind." So I opened each one up, measured the size of the subpanels, folded them consistently, and labeled them. It was fun to remind myself what I have...lots of really cute stuff! I was also surprised to see that they take up less room folded like this than they did on the hangers.


And speaking of panels, while we were still at anchor in quiet waters, I put together this little top using some bright jungle animal panels. There weren't enough of them to fill out the entire quilt, so I augmented them with crumb blocks. 


For the non-quilty readers, crumb blocks are made with really small scraps sewn together willy-nilly then trimmed into neat squares. It's fun to see glimpses of things like cupcakes in the scraps. The crumbs were already trimmed larger than the animals, so I used the black polka dot sashing to make everything neat and tidy. This one is the next to be quilted, once we're back in calm seas!

Friday, September 14, 2018

I spy four four patch I spies


Today I have four little quilt finishes to share. I made them all at the same time as a single big project, starting with Val's I-spy square swap. 400 bright, happy novelty squares arrived in the mail, wowee! To tame that madness, I first sorted the squares into color families. I sewed four patches of two dark and two light values within a single color. Black, white and gray were lumped together. Then I bordered half of the four patch blocks with a light sashing in the same color family, and half with dark. So the final blocks each clearly "read" as a single color.

I ended up with more blue blocks than any other color, but the mix of subjects in any color wasn't particularly "boyish" or "girlish." That pleased me, since I wanted each quilt to end up with a nice mix of everything from dump trucks to butterflies, and they did.


These two quilts will be donated to Wrap A Smile. One is all the yellow, pink, and orange blocks. The second is some of the blue blocks, and most of the green and aqua blocks.  And that's a bit of downtown Boston in the background, looking mostly gray. It was a gloomy day, but the rain had washed all the salt (and seagull poop) off this slanted gunwale so it was clean enough for photos. Plus, the wind was minimal!


The back of the pink/yellow/orange quilt is a single piece of this fun hot pink animal fabric, and the binding is a pink stripe. Wrap A Smile's label is stitched right on top in one corner, before quilting.


The blue/aqua/green one has this super fun, large scale dinosaur print on the back that matches the front colors perfectly. The geometric binding looks like it's cut on the bias, but it isn't.  I need to have a much better idea of who will be impressed before I do bias binding. 

All four pieces were quilted with a big, loose stipple in a variety of kinda-sorta matching threads. That quilting motif is super fast for me and each quilt took about 40 minutes.


The other two quilts will be donated to Quilts Beyond Borders. This one uses all the purple blocks (there were only four,) plus red and blue. I left the cleat in the lower right corner of the photo for that jaunty nautical look. One of my online guild members, quipped, "I'm gonna have to get me a boat to use as a backdrop for my quilt photos!" All you really need is a cleat, Kathleen.


For the back, I went with red fabrics. Isn't that Siamese kitty fabric darling? I love that they are all napping on various red and orange quilts. The binding on this quilt is a red stripe, and I used another piece of that same fabric to join together the larger pieces on the back. This allowed me to easily piece in the QBB-required label, and it ties the back nicely to the front.


The final quilt is the last one I put together, with the remaining blocks. This is all the black/white/gray ones, plus a smattering of blue, green, aqua and red. Not quite as coherent as the other three, but still fun.


For the back, I used this fun dog print that Rose sent me. I just hated to cut it up, so I used the whole yard here to make a child smile! The chunk of gray matches many of the sashings on the front, and the strip of black matches the black polka dot binding. Easy peasy.

The one thing that I didn't do with these four quilts is name them. I know that's a bit odd for me. I just thought of them as "The Four I-Spies" and identified each one by color. I did hum the James Bond theme a lot while sewing, so perhaps they are agents 001 through 004.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dark blue for September


I love navy blue, don't you? It's this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge color and I enjoyed working on my blocks this week. Here are my string blocks, a bit wrinkly.


And here are my two spiral blocks from the book Bright and Bold: Cozy Modern Quilts by Kim Schaefer. One block ends in a dark round, and one ends in a light neutral round. These blocks have been eating up my 1.5" light strings, hooray! They are also showing me that my quarter inch seam isn't terribly accurate, boo! Thank goodness for spray starch.
 

My Lurid Cat blocks feature the RSC color for the background and the cat applique is the opposite color on the color wheel. Last month happened to be orange, which is the opposite of blue, so I had lots of fun playing with both colors. I'm enjoying looking for my loudest, ugliest fabrics for the fat cats!

All these projects are getting near the end. I think October is the last month for a new RSC color. By the process of elimination, it must be dark green. After that, I think we use November and December to catch up and put the blocks together. I'm itching for some finishes! I'm also gathering ideas for next year's blocks.


I've also worked on non-RSC blocks this week, but the dark blue seems to follow me everywhere! These three blocks are for Kat's latest block drive for Covered in Love. She calls them "Grown Up Eye-Spy" blocks, with fun little prints in the centers. The colors for each block are three rounds of creams/tans and one of red, gold or navy blue. Fits right in with the RSC color. I love that tiny picnic table in the blue block.


And finally, here's my latest block from Tish's Fireburst Mystery quilt along. My fabric pull just happened to include this navy background with little paisleys.  It was given to me by my DH's aunt, a lovely lady. 

Are you playing along with RSC? How are your dark blues stitching up this month?

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Secret Life of Juice


It's a finish! This UFO is at least a year old, and I don't think I ever blogged about it. 


It's made with big triangles of science and math-themed fabrics, plus some greens, blues, and black and white polka dots. After my goddaughter was accepted into UCLA for their engineering PhD program, I decided this top must be for her. This week, she happened to be visiting Boston while we are here, so I pulled it out and finished it so I could give it to her in person. 


Here is The Secret Life of Juice in front of the historic lightship "Nantucket," as seen from our back deck.


The backing is bright lime green with fun atom symbols, plus a few scrappy chunks to bring it up to size. 


The binding is a metallic silver polka dot on black, and the quilting is a big stipple for softness and a fast finish.


You can see one of the extra fabrics on the back, and the line of stitching from using my machine to sew down the binding from the front. It blends quite well on the green, but shows a bit on the black. That's fine with me.

And why is this quilt called The Secret Life of Juice? My goddaughter has a orange tabby cat named Juice (like orange juice, get it?) and Juice is...slow. On the scale of cat IQs, Juice is not the brightest bulb in the string. Not the sharpest knife in the block. Dumb as a box of rocks. Or so we all thought, until I found this fabric:


Turns out Juice has been a mad scientist all along! He's hiding on the back of this quilt, dreaming up new inventions and conducting groundbreaking research. Who knew?? 

I'm so glad this UFO was far enough along that I was able to pull it out and finish it in a day and present it to her. UFOs get a bad rap, but they can be so convenient when you need a fast finish! I'll actually be mailing it to her in California, since she's traveling through the Northeast with just a backpack right now. No need to schlep a quilt around on your summer vacation when the USPS can handle all the transport.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Fly, robin, fly


This little top is called a Row Robin, and is made of rows of quilt blocks sewn by different people and mailed around the country. The name is a play on "Round Robin," where the blocks are sewn around and around a central medallion. This one was started by Spoon, a member of my online quilt guild. He made the overlapping batik squares and set the color palette of the piece. So bright and cheerful! Then Kathleen added flying geese so it could fly away to me. I must have had geese on the brain, because the idea of adding feathers popped into my head and wouldn't leave until I made them.



I used a free pattern by Anna Marie Horner called Feather Bed to piece the blocks. The original size was a bit too big, so I reduced the templates on my printer to end up with three across. I then made this test block with a gray  and black background fabric. Not only was the background too busy and jarring, I messed up the math and the feather was too small. But it worked as proof-of-concept, so I reprinted the templates and changed to the dark purple background. Much better!

These feathers were fiddly and fussy (and folded funny in the photo,) so I'm glad I only had to make seven of them. If I tried them again, I might use striped fabric instead of strip piecing.  But that's part of the fun of a collaborative effort like this, to try something new!  Now this little robin will flutter to it's next destination at Carol's house and then eventually back to Spoon to be finished.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Working on I-Spies


A couple of months ago, I participated in an I-Spy 4" square swap at Val's Quilting Studio. Each person sent in 20 squares each of 10 different fun novelty fabrics. Val then sorted and combined all the fabrics and sent us back 200 unique squares. So fun! There was also the option of sending in a double batch, which I decided to do. So I got 400 squares in the mail, super double bonus fun!

The problem with 400 (mostly) unique squares is that they are a bit overwhelming. Since the object of an I-Spy quilt is for there to be lots of different things for a toddler to find, the fabrics are busy busy busy. I needed some order in all that chaos!

I knew I wanted to make donation quilts for Wrap A Smile and Quilts Beyond Borders, so the first order of business was to remove some squares that contained subjects we've been asked to avoid. For instance, pigs, Christmas themes, and camouflage patterns aren't great choices in some of the receiving countries. At the same time, I sorted all the squares into color families and into lights and darks within the colors.

I stitched together four patches of two lights and two darks, all the same color. This made 7.5" squares, and I wanted the blocks to finish at 10" so I added 2" raw borders all the way around. The borders are the same color as the novelty squares, and that gave the whole batch some structure. Instead of hundreds of multicolor small squares, I ended up with just over 80 larger blocks, each one very clearly a single color. That's enough for 4 toddler sized quilts, each 40"x50".


Here are the stacks of red, yellow, orange and pink blocks. I tried to make about half the borders dark and half light. That was easy with some colors, like orange, where I had both deep pumpkin orange and light tangerine. For yellow and red, though, I used off white for the light borders. I don't have any pale yellow fabric, and pale red is pink, which ended up being its own color stack.


Here are the blue, green and aqua stacks. They are much larger, especially the blue. I ended up with 21 blue blocks, but only 5 yellow and 4 purple. And there's a stack of black and white blocks, too, with I-spy fabrics that had almost no color in them at all.

My original plan was to make rainbow order quilts, but with such a imbalance of colors that didn't seem like a great idea. Instead, I decided to group analogous colors. I think I'll end up with two bluish-greenish quilts, one yellow/pink/orange, and one with the leftovers mixed with the black and white squares.


And here's the first top pieced together! Even though this is a sort of soft and girly color palette, the I-Spy subjects are a great mix. There are dump trucks, bees, rhinos, fishing lures, strawberries, kitties, and treasure chests, just to name a few! I'm looking forward to piecing up the other three tops soon and then getting them all quilted.


And speaking of kitties, here's Angel on the other project I worked on last week. This is my scrappy Christmas fabric top, pieced up last year. I'm quilting it without batting to a fleece backing. Theoretically, without batting the quilt would be a little lighter and thinner and easier to store. We aren't usually any place very cold in the winter. However, the fleece that I bought online is the thickest stuff I've ever seen! Whoa, Nelly, this is going to be a heavy quilt! Just shoving it around through the Juki has been quite a workout, so I'm setting it aside for a while. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

And the painted ponies go up and down


Greetings from Nantucket Island! This quilt is made from a panel called "Painted Ponies," and it's a finish for Wrap a Smile.


I wanted to try a panel bordering technique that I saw on a free Benartex pattern called "Cool Cats." The octagon purple border is made of eight half rectangle triangles, and makes a neat frame for the floral horses. Everything inside that purple is part of the panel.


To round out the rest of the quilt, I pieced up four big hearts using Cluck Cluck Sew's free block pattern. So fast and easy. I used some fun novelty prints for the hearts, including balloons, rainbow trees and feathers. So I'm calling this one Horse Feathers.


I didn't manage to get a photo of the feather fabric heart, but here it is in one of the little border squares. You can also see the binding fabric, a multi colored butterfly print with a purple background. I usually cut my bindings 2.5" wide, but tried 2.25" this time for a tighter finish.


The back is pieced from a chunk of dark yellow and a groovy psychedelic star print.


Here's a closeup of the stars. Aren't they fun? And I was able to put one of the Wrap A Smile labels on this quilt myself. Now I'm an official "International Quilter," I guess!


The quilting is an all over stipple for cuddly softness. The lighting in Nantucket Harbor was briefly good enough to show the texture. We were anchored a loooooong way from shore, as you can see by all the tiny boats in the background. Mostly it was drizzly and foggy during our visit this week. I call that "Quiltin' Weather."


The HRT bordering technique was pretty straightforward and should be easy to adapt to other panel sizes, so I'm glad to have this in my tool kit. These ponies are 10" finished, so the HRTs were 5" finished. The only slightly tricky part was wrapping my head around how the panel borders and heart blocks lined up with the cornerstones.


I also wanted to share this lovely box of goodies that I received from a quilty friend. A bright stack of fat quarters, tons of scraps including dogs, owls, and bears, oh my! Plus a fat eighth bundle of sea critters, so cute! And can you see the little styluses next to the bears? Rose makes those herself and they are so clever. One is a black cat and the other is a funny lady with wild hair. For my non-quilting readers, a stylus is used to guide fabric under the needle so your fingers don't have to get too close. Very useful. Thank you so much, Rose!


And finally, it's the annual parade of Pets on Quilts over at Lily Pad Quilting. Angel has been enjoying her hexagon quilt lately, after snubbing it for many months. Who knows why these preferences come and go with cats? I'm just glad that she's been feeling better. You can see where they shaved her tummy for the ultrasound. Her fur is growing back slowly but surely, and her appetite is good. We bought her one of those pet drinking fountains and she really likes it, so I think she's also drinking more water for better kidney health. Be sure to drop by Lily Pad to see lots more cute animals on quilts!

Friday, August 10, 2018

A finish and a tour



I cleaned up my studio last week and decided it was a good time to take a few photos and invite you in for a tour. A number of people have recently asked to see how I quilt on a boat. I wrote about my studio a couple of years ago here, but there have a been a few changes.



But first, the finish! This super scrappy string quilt top was pieced almost a year ago. I just recently decided to add navy borders to make it the right size for the double/full size bed in our guest stateroom. The mattress sits on a platform and is surrounded by a built in railing to keep it from moving while we are underway. I wanted the quilt to just fit inside the railing. I'm happy with how the bright yellow inner border shows along the edges.

The guest stateroom is also my quilting studio. It's pretty small, with about 2 feet on average around each side of the double bed. It's in the bow of the boat, so the room is a little triangular, narrowing significantly up near the head of the bed. I wish I could take better photos of the space, but the combination of dark wood walls, tiny (8" x 18") windows, and no way to step back for perspective makes taking pictures difficult.



The bed itself is my main work space. At the foot of the bed, it is about counter height. By adding a piece of thin plywood over the firm mattress, I have a good surface for my cutting mat and folding ironing board. I really like how I don't have to bend over to cut and iron. I also like having room for a 24"x36" mat. The iron is cordless, which is a good choice for a moving vessel. Less chance of getting tangled or caught if the boat lurches.



My Juki TL2010Q sewing machine sits on a small built in table on the starboard side of the room. The table is covered with dark brown vinyl so it's hard to see but easy to clean. It's wedged in tightly and bolted to the wall, and can be removed if we have guests. The surface of the bed acts like an extension of the table, supporting pieces as I quilt them. There's just enough room for me to sit on an adjustable stool in front of the machine, but not enough room for the stool to have a back. That's OK, I try to only spend about 20 minutes at a time sewing, then move to ironing or other activities.



Most of my tools are hanging on the wall next to the Juki for easy access. The rectangular brown basket holds the stuff I use the most often. The glass door to the right in this photo is the en suite shower, which is where I store batting in big plastic bags. There's another window in the shower, so I get a little extra light that way.



My stash is stored in every nook and cranny of the room, including inside the small attached bathroom. See the stainless steel sink? This is my scrap strings and crumbs storage area. Spray baste, starch and an extra iron are stored under the sink with the toilet paper and bottles of wine. No wasted space on a boat!



Here is the port side of the room. You can see some of the plastic storage boxes to keep out dust and salt air out of the fabric. There's a spring loaded curtain rod running between two shelves under the window to hold WIPs. More of those live on hangers behind the door and in my clothes closet. Because really, who needs more clothes?



Two of the four drawers under the bed contain ziplock bags with fabric sorted by color or theme. Equipment under the bed (the bow thruster) generates black graphite dust, so this fabric needs extra protection. Keep those ziplocks zipped!


These two larger bins on the floor next to the bed are all my yardage bigger than fat quarters. The woven basket crammed in behind that holds pieces large enough to use as backings.
 

The wall space is extremely limited because of all the doors and cabinets, but I hang up my frequently used rulers wherever there's a bit of room. 3M Command hooks work well and don't damage the woodwork. There's no way I can have a design wall, so I use the top of the queen size bed in the master stateroom.

So there you go, my little nautical studio! I love having all my quilting stuff close at hand and spend many happy hours here. It may be small and salty and constantly moving, but that gives me a built in excuse for any wobbly free motion stitching. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.