Wednesday, June 13, 2018

One woman quilting retreat

Angel and I are alone on the boat this week while DH Sean is at a conference in Dallas. We've decided to pretend that we're at a quilting retreat, with nothing to do but relax, sew and eat! I've been doing the quilting and she's been "testing." 

The boat is docked at a marina to make it easier for Sean to get to the airport, and to have access to power and water. The power has been great, allowing me to luxuriate in cool, dry air conditioning day and night. The water has Being fixed. Fixed tomorrow, ma'am. Maybe Monday, ma'am. Poor Dudley the Dockmaster finally admitted that they needed parts from the US to fix the water, and offered to drag a hose all the way down the dock to fill our tank. Six hoses, actually: it's a long dock.

I'm grateful to Dudley, because I really wanted to get a few quilts washed. By yesterday, I had finished quilting and binding these three, so they got a trip to the "spa" and are now washed, dried, and ready for their new homes. Don't they look jaunty up on the foredeck of our little shippy ship?

This first one is called Wild Horses (Couldn't Drag Me Away). Many moons ago, I bought a small lot of fabric on eBay because I wanted the bright, running horses on a black background. When the fabric arrived, there were several rail fence blocks already sewn, and lots of strips of horses cut. The strips ran both parallel and perpendicular to the horses' direction, but I figured by the time I twisted and turned all the rail blocks, that wouldn't matter. I added a few more brights from my stash to round out the rail fences, added a couple of borders, and voila!

Here's a close up that shows the simple stipple quilting I did. The fun, busy design didn't need any more than that. Wild Horses will go to Wrap A Smile.

Counting Fishes will also be heading to the Wrap A Smile charity, to help comfort a child undergoing surgery for a cleft palate. You may remember that this fabric was given to me by Karen. The bold, bright fish and big numbers dominate, and it has a little rhyme in small text, too. I really love using happy novelty fabrics like this. The fish have such sweet smiles!

This one got simple wavy line quilting to mimic flowing water. A fun, Juicy Fruit stripe matches the colors perfectly for the border. I wish I had another couple yards of that stripe; it's super versatile!


The third quilt is a little larger, and is just the right size for Quilts Beyond Borders. I'm calling it Butterfly Banners. Made of orphan blocks, I had fun quilting this one with a few different, easy motifs.

First I stitched in the ditch around each purple sashed area for stability. The four patches and sixteen patches have a curvy orange peel motif. I changed thread color a couple of times to try to match, but it's a bit tricky with brights and white right next to each other. The scrappy HST butterflies are simply outlined.

The banners have a diagonal, offset cross hatch design in light blue. I love that scooter fabric! Finally, the background field has a stipple in white thread. The pretty white with soft violets was given to me by Sean's aunt, left over from her years working at Laura Ashley. I'm happy with the turquoise striped binding, too. 

Here's a quick peek at the backings, courtesy of the gusty breezes. I was lucky to find single pieces of coordinating fabrics for each quilt that were just the right size. All these charity quilts have machine sewn binding and that goes zippy fast. It takes me about 40 minutes, total, to sew the binding to the back, flip it to the front, and finish stitching it down. I know many of you love the serenity of hand stitching binding, but I HATE doing it. Seriously, if I hadn't figured out that I could machine bind, I'd have given up on quilting after about 3 finishes.

This quilt was still under the needle when Dudley brought the hose, so it hasn't been washed yet. I'm trying to batch them together to fill the machine and not waste any water. Scrappy Asian-inspired chunks from my stash make up this soft piece. Originally I thought it would go to Covered in Love, but it has whispered to me that it might have another destiny. Nothing specific, just a hunch. Fortunately, I have two other CiL quilts queued up.

The back of the as-yet-unnamed-and-unassigned quilt is made of large squares of tan neutrals. I'm not sure how I ended up with so many of these blah prints, but they work well together as this backing. My stash of blah fuglies is now reduced, so win-win!

I was clearly on a roll with the stippling, and used it again for overall coverage. I do a mean stipple. "Mean," as in, "half of all quilters stipple better than Louise, and half stipple worse." Good enough for softness, drape and texture.

And finally, this was tonight's sunset over Nassau harbour. Every time I read about someone else's quilting retreat, there are always photos of the lovely setting, so here ya go. Like at all good quilt retreats, alcohol and dessert were consumed while enjoying the view.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A whole family of squirrels

It's time again to link up our DrEAMis/Squirrels with Sandra. Even though I don't usually have an agenda for what I sew on any given day, there are definitely projects that feel like DrEAMIs, where I Drop Everything And Make It. This stained glass looking top falls squarely in that category. I recently had pulled out this jelly roll of Nicey Jane fabrics because it was taking up awkward space in a box. Then Vicki and I were having a conversation about jelly roll patterns and as I browsed through my folder of free patterns, this Moda Bakeshop one called Noteworthy Labyrinth grabbed my attention. A little modification to the pattern and three days of concentrated sewing later, I had this top. 

There were a lot of different steps in the Bakeshop pattern and I felt like I could use a leader/ender project to go along with it. Mister Domestic had posted a fun quilt made with striped knit fabrics so I decided to make something similar. These are just simple 5.5" squares of various stripes, sewn into a basketweave design. It used up some scrappy stripey pieces that were too small to use as bindings. About 80% of the piecing was finished as leaders/enders by the time the jelly roll top was done, so it was practically a two-fer-one deal! Kind of a baby squirrel.

While I was selecting, ironing, and cutting my striped fabrics, I kept picking up and moving my box of dog-themed fabrics. That darn dog box was just constantly in the way! Only one thing to do about that: open it, pull some fabrics, and make 20 Mendota blocks with pooches, pups, and pugs. This one is destined for Wrap a Smile, and I've named it Squirrel Chases Dog. Another baby rodent skittering around my studio, tamed and tethered.

But wait! There's more! More dog fabrics, I mean. After using up most of the red, blue and brown dogs, there was a nice stack of greenish canine fabrics left over. I pulled a few green blenders and did a quick-n-dirty on-point layout. I don't love this one, but it was useful to figure out exactly what size blocks to cut to end up with the 40"x50" size Wrap A Smile prefers. This was my first test piece to get the 4/5 proportions correct. Next time I'll cut slightly smaller blocks and add a border to contain all the bias edges and give it more finished feel. Once I started thinking about the quilty math, my brain wouldn't stop chasing that nut hoarder. So this is little baby squirrel number three!

And finally, when Val announced her new Eye-Spy fabric swap, I just knew I had to participate. It's no secret that I love (and hoard) kid-friendly novelty fabrics. So I had plenty on hand to cut into the required 4" squares. To be part of the swap, you send in 20 squares each of 10 fabrics. Val collects them all, then redistributes them to all the participants and you get 200 unique squares back. So fun! There's an option to send in two sets and get 400 back, so I signed up for that in 5 seconds flat. Honestly? I could have easily pulled 40 unique novelties to swap, but Val is an elementary school teacher and knows how to make it fair for everyone. (Don't be piggy, Louise!) The selecting, ironing, and cutting took about 2 hours for little baby squirrel number 4. I think that counts as a whole litter of squirrel pups!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Troubles with Blogger

I learned today that there is some sort of problem with comments on Blogger blogs, including mine. Normally, when you leave a comment here, I get an email. That email has your address on it, and your comment is the message. It's a simple matter for me to hit "reply" and continue the conversation.

I love that! Getting your kind, funny, inquisitive, supportive comments make the work of blogging completely worthwhile to me. I try to reply to each and every one of them unless you are a no-reply commenter.

However, that system seem to be broken right now. In order to see your comments, I must go to a special comment moderation page, click through to your Blogger/Google profile to get your email address, copy that, open my email, and start an email from scratch. I can't even cut and paste your comment, which is super frustrating!

I really hope that Blogger fixes this soon soon soon, because I have no idea how to fix it from here. If you have your own Blogger blog, you might want to double check that you are getting comments correctly. I know most of the QBS (Quilt Blogo-Sphere) is eager to recognize and encourage commenting to keep our community connected and vibrant.

The photo on this post is a ziplock full of my dark background strip scraps. I've set these aside to mail to Janice at Color, Creating and Quilting, who needs them for a new project. I'm happy to help her out, because that's just the sort of fun interaction I love so much about our little online world. Meanwhile, I'll try to keep up with your comments using the slow, frustrating method. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

In the UFO trenches

My quilting process tends to go roughly like this: Be inspired either by a pattern or a fabric, and sew up a top until it feels finished. If it's a gift for a particular person, I usually launch right into quilting and get 'er done. But "feels finished" could also mean "until I run out of fabric" or "until I run out of motivation." If I don't have a recipient in mind, pieces like that can often end up as UFOs, because the final size is undetermined. Is it big enough yet?

Different charities request different size quilts. Some have a minimum and maximum range, and others are pretty strict about wanting a specific size. And of course I try to match the top to the ages and circumstances of the recipients of that particular charity. So until I've chosen the charity, a top can float around in limbo for a while.

Last week I was motivated to go through most of my UFOs and choose a final home for them. That allowed me to add borders until they were the right size, and then make backings for them. Adding long strips for borders and wrangling the large chunks of fabric for backings is a whole different mindset than piecing small blocks, and I need to be in the right mood. That mood can be fleeting, so when it arrived, I seized it. Carpe diem and all that.

I had the idea that I would take photos of each top and each backing to share with you. Frankly, the photos were atrocious. It's so windy here that even INSIDE the boat things were flapping around mightily. And most of these flimsies have already been shared here on the old blog-o-roonie. So classy pics of piles of folded fabric will have to serve.

First up is the fun fish top I made with fabric that Karen sent me. It needed another border to get it up to the right size for Wrap a Smile (WAS.) I added a watery blue print and kept the directionality so the water flows side to side and not up and down. The yellow and blue plaid was plenty wide for a backing and didn't need piecing, so easy peasy. I'll use that zesty stripe for binding.

I've started labeling tops with their rough size and potential recipient, using blue painters tape. I do this with batting scraps, too, and it's so helpful to not have to measure the same piece over and over again. 

Huh. I just realized that I didn't ever share this flimsy, so this one will have to be a surprise after it's quilted up. It is rail fence blocks with those brightly colored running horses in the center of each one. I added a couple of black and purple borders thinking it might appeal to an older child at WAS. The purple fabric with the scallops on it will serve as both backing and binding. It's a vintage print and at 45" wide, didn't need to be pieced. That's a little tight for a 44" wide top, but I'm willing to trim off any small "oops" spots if the backing shifts. There's certainly plenty of black border to spare.

This is the Ernie quilt pattern top with an added border to bring it up to size for Covered in Love (CIL.) The backing is pieced from the last bit of the floral border, and two of the stripe fabrics, salmon and green. The binding will be the solid purple. All four of those fabrics were donated to Covered in Love, and Kat shared them with me. It feels good to use them together in this quilt.

This is the top made of Asian-inspired fabrics that I shared last week. All the sashing pieces are scrappy whites and creams, so I made the 5" wide border scrappy, too. The corner that shows here looks a little dark, but the overall border blends nicely. For the back, I pieced large patchwork squares of my darker tan and taupe fabrics. They don't really go well with the bright kid's fabrics I like to use, so I'm happy they work with this piece. (Note to self: stop buying drab fabric.) The binding will be the tan and black geometric. This one is tentatively headed to CIL, or I might keep it for a while. It's nice to have a few pieces finished that I can give to friends or family members who need a fast, quilty hug.

I made the main part of this over a year ago, intending to donate it to a charity in Charleston that wanted small 36" x 48" wheelchair quilts. I didn't get it finished before we left Charleston, so it lurked as a UFO. The block pattern is called Old Italian. This week I added the black stop border and the wide dusty blue outer border. The latter was also a donation to CIL, so this piece will soon circle back to Kat's charity. I pieced the backing out a similar dusty blue in my stash, plus a burgundy/blue/white/gold stripe. The mottled burgundy should make a good binding. It has tiny metallic flecks in it. Fancy! Oh, and the blue border fabric was originally 108" wide. Man, that makes it easy to cut borders.


This piece never made it onto the blog when it was originally pieced. I have no idea why, because I really like it. It's made of orphan blocks from various projects, sashed in purple and set into a white with little purple flowers background. I really enjoyed the mental math required to get them all "floating" like that. It was actually a little too big for Quilts Beyond Borders (QBB), so I trimmed off an inch from the total width.

QBB requires a label on their quilts, so I've been avoiding finishing any pieces for them. Isn't that pathetic? That's how much I hate making these kinds of labels. I unearthed my last piece of machine printable fabric recently, so I grit my teeth and used it to make a few labels in the requested format. This one is stitched onto the backing, which is a single piece of mottled green. The aqua stripe will be the binding.

Six quilts with backings, ready to be basted and quilted. I'll share photos taken in better lighting as each one blossoms into a finished quilt. We'll be out of the Bahamas by then, so I won't have to deal with the relentless wind.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hands2Help 2018 Summary

This year's Hands2Help Charity Challenge is coming to an end this week, and it's time to link up our finishes to share with other helpers. As usual, Sarah did a fantastic job finding worthy charities and rustling up some great sponsors. If you've been following my blog, you've probably seen all these before.

This year she chose three different charities, and I sewed something for each one. The first is an old favorite, Quilty Hugs for Happy Chemo. This charity, run by Emily of Em's Scrap Bag, provides quilts for folks undergoing chemotherapy. I donated Key West Chickens. I mailed it off back in March while we were still in Florida so at least this one made the H2H deadline.

The second charity, Victoria's Quilts Canada, provides quilts to people living with cancer in Canada. They asked Hands2Help participants to provide quilt tops only, 50" x 70" in size. The tops will be quilted locally with cozy flannel backings to provide extra warmth in the Great White North. Since quilt tops are lighter, easier to ship, and faster to sew than finished quilts, I made three. The first one shown above is The UPS Quilt, made with brown and black string scraps. 

Double Four Patch was made from a variety of scraps and ended up being one of my favorite pieces.

Autumn Orphans was pieced with left over blocks and some cute panel pieces. These three tops are sitting on Sean's dresser, carefully packed away in a plastic bag, waiting to be shipped up to Victoria's after we return to the US.

The third charity is called Little Lambs Foundation for Kids. They provide backpack "comfort kits" to children of all ages who are transitioning into foster care, emergency shelter or who have been hospitalized. I chose to make "blankies" without batting to fit more easily into the backpacks, and sized them for kids aged 5 or younger. This one is called Through the Reef and has corduroy backing.

Streak of Lightning has flannel backing in a sweet blue giraffe print.

And Pink Giraffes is the same flannel in a different colorway, backed with a coordinating cotton pique. All three have satin baby blanket binding. They are also waiting to be shipped once we are out of the Bahamas. I'll miss the H2H deadline, but I know that each of these charities' work is ongoing and donations are always welcome.

Thank you again, Sarah, for the opportunity to let my hands help!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Scrippity scrappity

Pink is the color o' the month for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, and I've finished my three RSC projects for May. Even though I don't particularly like pink, and don't sew with it very much, I still had plenty of pink scraps to choose from. How does that happen? My four pink string blocks are above.

Next are my two pink spiral blocks from the book Cozy Modern Quilts by Kim Schaefer. The pattern is "Maze Madness" and there are blocks with the accent color on the outside of the block and ones with the neutral on the outside. (This book was my first exposure to modern quilting and I fell in love. Not that it's the best book, but just the idea of bold color and geometric design in quilts? Yes, please!)

My clowder of lurid cats has grown by two. I use the RSC color in the background and the color wheel opposite for the cats. The green cat of cat fabrics is very meta.

My muse: grey cat on blue background.

Most of these little projects were completed just before we had a guest aboard this week. I knew I would be dismantling my studio to turn it back into the guest stateroom, so I didn't want to tackle anything large. Much as I hate to stop sewing, it's a good exercise to completely clean up the creative mess a couple of times a year.

I unearthed a bag of Asian-inspired scraps during the process, and decided to stitch up these simple blocks. Just a rectangle with two scrappy neutral strips on opposite edges.

When set with the blocks alternating, a basket weave design emerges. This is a modification of a free pattern called Colorworks, which calls for 4.5" x 6.5" rectangles. I had lots of 6" scraps, so I cut my pieces 4" x 6" instead. I'll add a scrappy neutral border to it at some point which will complete those dangling edge blocks.

I also found my bag of non-quilting cotton scraps: flannels, piques, and corduroys. I don't have room to collect a real stash of these fabrics, so I've decided not to buy any more of them and am trying to just use them up. 

The last bits and bobs in the bag got cut into strings and stitched up into QAYG blocks directly onto batting scraps. There was just enough for two pillow shams, and they were finished in time for our guest to use them. Score!

For the pillow backs, I used more of my decorator-weight blue dinosaur fabric. The pattern almost matches in the middle. Our guest, who has two young children at home, commented that she liked how the pillows have a kid side and an adult side. (And yes, she very much enjoyed her short tropical vacation away from her kids. Her husband is a pilot so she can fly for free, and having friends who just happened to be on their boat in the Turks and Caicos worked out very nicely!)

And finally, I pulled and cut up my fabrics for Tish's Fire Burst mystery QAL. I'm making the 32"x32" baby size and have enough of the navy blue left over to perhaps add a few borders. That blue and white fabric is covered with sweet line drawings of little birds.

The flannel and Asian scraps are all used up, the pink scrap bag shrank a tiny bit, and the QAL pieces fit nicely in a new bag. We enjoyed having our lovely guest aboard for three days and now I'm setting the studio up again. Life is good!

Friday, April 27, 2018

I ain ga lie... blogging mojo has been lacking. But I have been sewing. The title of this post is a nod to the local Turks and Caicos beer. The lager is called I-Ain-Ga-Lie ("I ain't gonna lie") which is delicious. We enjoyed a couple of cold ones on the deck of a restaurant on the island of Middle Caicos. You can see both shallow, turquoise water and deep, marine blue water in the background. Lovely!

A stack of long quarters in sherbet colored homespuns has been kicking around my studio, getting in the way, so I cut them up and pieced this top. I was inspired by Rose's Ernie quilt for the combo of solids and stripes, and wanted to try a little bit of transparency play. I offset the solid and pattern rows by a half block, which was a bit fiddly and tedious to keep track of. I think this quilt is one of those that will look a lot better quilted and I'm planning to play with some fun long skinny FMQ motifs when I get around to it.

And speaking of transparency, I pieced up this Five Alarm Chili top using Sandra's Playtime Plus pattern. She's having a quilt along that just started so feel free to jump in! The piecing went really fast so I got ahead of the QAL even faster than usual. I chose mostly hot chile pepper fabrics for the small pluses, with a few other veggies and blenders for variety. The cream and red solid backgrounds make another ginormous red cross, a nod to our years as volunteers for the American Red Cross. Or possibly it refers to the medical attention you'll need if you eat cousin Christopher's homemade hot salsa.

While taking photos, the wind gusted up quite strongly and I ended up hanging onto the corner of the chiles while it flapped noisily. I didn't notice until later that all the motion had actually started to disintegrate the fabric! Good thing I have more of this cream so I can replace this frayed corner.

This little piece isn't a quilt, technically. There isn't any batting between the top and the backing, so I'll call it a blankie. The fabrics are the fun, fish-themed scraps from Hugs and Kishes Covered with Fishes that I made for my newest baby cousin. I actually pieced the top at the same time as H&KCwF, so it's nice to move this UFO along. The backing is a thick cotton corduroy in similar colors, and I used pre-packaged satin blanket binding. It is quilted using wavy lines of stitching about 2" apart. The corduroy didn't slide well along my machine bed, so I ended up quilting most of it with the corduroy on the top, using my walking foot. I'm calling it Through the Reef and we'll see how it washes up. I'm hoping the corduroy will shrink up and add some crinkle.

Similarly, this piece is just the top with a flannel backing, no batting, and purple satin binding. Streak of Lightning was pieced ages ago with the scraps from our bed quilt, which is the big checkerboard one in my blog header photo. It's been languishing as a UFO for several years but now it's a finish! Woot!

Here's the backing, a cute blue giraffe flannel with a bit of green to make it big enough. The quilting on this one is kind of a FMQ sampler with 8 different motifs in the 16 rows. Without the batting thickness, the fabric moved much more smoothly/quickly under my quilting foot, which led to some distorted shapes. It's funny how my hands are so used to the drag and resistance of a regular quilt sandwich! I think all the cottons will shrink in the wash and hide any little oopsies. Again, I decided to use satin binding to give it a little extra pizzazz to make up for no batting.

I had to pull out my other sewing machine to put on the satin bindings because that requires a zig zag stitch. Once I had The Little Kenmore That Could set up, I figured I might as well use up the rest of my stash of satin binding. I had nice big pieces of this pink giraffe flannel and a coordinating cotton pique, and put them together as a whole cloth blankie. Kind of like a receiving blanket, but big enough for a toddler who really, REALLY likes pink. 

These blankies will be donated to Little Lambs as part of the Hands2Help challenge. Little Lambs provides a backpack full of hygiene and comfort items to kids who are in transition from temporary places like hospitals, emergency shelters, and foster care. These children can be any age from newborn to teens and often have no way to carry their few belongings. I got to thinking that the really little kids might struggle to fold and pack a bulky quilt into their new backpack, so I decided that these thinner blankies might be a good alternative. The flannel and corduroy are soft and fuzzy and the satin bindings feel smooth and soft against little fingers and faces. Although I prefer making quilts with batting, it was interesting to try these alternatives and I think they will still wrap three little ones in warmth and comfort.