Sunday, March 18, 2018

Quick update from the Bahamas

We're finally here! And it's just as lovely as I remembered. Our Internet is super slow, though, so reading and writing blogs will be very intermittent. If you don't hear from me on your own site, I apologize in advance. I'm going to try to keep reading as much as possible, if and when pages will load. Getting a comment to go through will be an extra credit assignment!

Here's a quick look at my works in progress. Lots of cutting and sorting on some scrappy projects. I might bring my old Kenmore up to the back deck so I can sew with a view of that turquoise water...

Today we will leave Bimini and head to the Berry Islands. We'll stop halfway there to anchor for the night on the Bahama banks in about 20 feet of water depth. We'll be about 30-40 miles from the nearest dry land, something possible in very few places on Earth. By Monday afternoon we should be anchored in the Berries where we'll sit for a few days and let some windy weather pass us by. Hopefully we'll have a bit of connectivity there, but wind protection is more important and will drive our choice of anchorage. 

If you're curious about the position and status of the boat while we travel internationally, you can always check this Twitter link. We will use our satellite phone to post short updates there so our families don't worry about us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Postcards are from Sweden, chickens are from Key West

This week is the Step 3 check in on MMM Quilts for the Postcards from Sweden Quilt Along. We should have our triangles all sewn together and started piecing them into the top. Check and check. There is a possibility that more progress has happened, but that's neither here nor there. Although if a body just HAPPENED to be further along, a body need not feel guilty about that. As my friend Rose says, "Guilt and Quilt may rhyme but they don't go together!"

Oo, look! A stained glass shot! I like seeing how all the seams are pressed in opposite direction in this photo. Because I can't see the inside of the seams anymore, possibly because of further progress on this quilt that shall remain unmentioned.

Now here's a completely finished quilt that I don't feel guilty about at all. I pieced the top for this back in June of last year, so it was officially a UFO for quite a long time. When our visit to Key West was extended another few days, I figured I could quilt up one last top and ship it off the boat. I asked my husband which UFO I should work on, and he said, "The chicken one, of course!"

What makes a chicken quilt the obvious choice in Key West? Why, the Key West Chickens, of course! Feral fowl are everywhere in this town, and we heard roosters crowing every day. One saucy rooster tag teamed with a sparrow to steal food right out of my hand, too. That one thought he was some kind of feathered star, or something.

We both decided that getting photos with the quilt and the chickens would be fun, but the chickens weren't very cooperative. We couldn't find any until we were literally walking up to the post office front door to mail the quilt to Happy Chemo, a Hands2Help charity.

Feral chickens aren't afraid of much, but a big piece of cloth flapping in the wind, held by a man with suspicious intentions, is one of those things. Sean would sidle up to a few chickens and slowly unfurl the quilt, then they'd scatter. This group cackled and scolded and ran away into the shadows, leaving us with just a few bad photos. But the other tourists were amused, at least.

Key West Chickens was quilted with free motion orange peels in the focal blocks, and a four lobed design in the hour glass blocks. The yellow part of the hour glass is baby chicks, and the red is fried drumsticks. The full life cycle of a chicken. 

I used a 40 weight yellow thread which gave me fits by shredding and breaking. I changed everything: new needle, different tension, new bobbin, but no avail. After two rows, I gave up and tossed the spool in the trash and switched to a slightly different shade of yellow, which quilted the rest of the piece with zero trouble. Have you had that happen, where a particular color just won't work in your machine? It's happened to me three times. I'm wondering if the different dyes affect thread strength.

One of the "bad" colors in my thread stash is my only spool of black. I wanted to use black in the border of this piece, so I gritted my teeth and tried it again, hoping it would cooperate this time. Nope. Shred, shred, break, break. What to do?? The next closest color was navy blue, so I decided to try that. And you know what? It looks fine. If you reeeeeeealllllly look closely, you can see that it's blue, not black. But mostly it's just completely invisible. For the record, I did wishbones in the border (ha! like on a roast chicken!) and you can only see them here on the back. You can also see the binding, which is fried eggs on red. It's a very silly themed quilt, and I hope it will make someone smile.

Here's a parting shot of Key West Chickens with a bit of boaty flavor. We've left Key West now and will be crossing the Straights of Florida to the Bahamas tomorrow, hooray! Next time I post will be from the Islands.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Free fabric and a finish

Look at all this super cute ocean themed fabric! My friend Karen, who blogs over at KaHolly, sent all these pieces to me last week. Wasn't that sweet? She thought I would get around to stitching them up into a quilt long before she would, since it's been marinating in her stash for about five years. I couldn't resist working with them right away.

It's a series of 12 squarish panels that can be sewn into a soft book or a toddler quilt, plus some nice coordinating scraps in bright colors. I used the scraps for cornerstones, added some mottled yellow sashing and pieced this up into a simple 3x4 layout top. The bold, happy fish designs do the heavy lifting to make this fun, so I think simple piecing was all it needed. 

Fabric panels are notoriously uneven in size, and these were as much as 3/8" different in height and width from each other. However, there is a curvy, squiggly darker blue printed on the edges of the blocks, making an easy transition to the yellow sashing, no matter what the overall size. The top is about 36"x46", a good toddler quilt size. I'm going to donate this one to Little Lambs, which is one of the charities for Hands2Help this year. Sarah announced the challenge today; go take a look if you're interested. The quilts aren't due to be shipped until June, so I have plenty of time to quilt up these fishies. Thanks so much, Karen, for sending this packet of fun!

Meanwhile, I completely finished this quilt, called Olympic I-Spy. The Sunshine Online Quilt Guild had a little challenge during the winter Olympics games to stitch something up in the colors of the Olympic flag: red, blue, yellow, green and black. 

I used those colors to border little I-spy blocks in contrasting colors. It was fun and fast and the colors are bright and cheerful.

I sandwiched the top up with this happy red and white heart fabric and Warm and Natural batting. It's fairly thin, so the whole quilt is sort of a lightweight summer piece. The binding is a bright stripe in all the Olympic colors plus orange, but it works fine. 

I did big, soft floppy feather quilting to keep it snuggly. This motif is fast, fun and forgiving of a bit of lumpiness and asymmetry. Being personally both lumpy and asymmetric, this works well for me. My feathers are getting better in the middle of the quilt, but edges are still a challenge. I also managed to catch a big fold in the backing all along one edge, so a bit of frog stitching needed to happen (rip-it! rip-it!) Quilting will keep you humble, folks.

Here is the quilt being inspected by Number 17. It passed with flying (Olympic) colors, and then took a spin through the washer to get rid of cat hairs and other impurities. The cursing I did during the stitch ripping washes out, right?

Olympic I-Spy has already been shipped off to one of the coordinators for the Wrap A Smile quilt charity. You can read more about WAS here if you're interested. I didn't think I'd have time to mail any more quilts while we were still in the US, but we've been sitting in Key West for over a week waiting for a good weather window. Please note that this is NOT a complaint!

We use maps like this to help us decide when to leave on longer passages. The trip to the closest Bahamian island, Bimini, from here will take us about 24 hours. So we're looking for the map to be white and the lightest blue along our route during that time. That medium blue means the waves could be as high as 6 feet, which can be uncomfortable (but not dangerous.) Given the choice of enjoying another few days in Key West vs. getting bounced around on passage, we'll most likely keep waiting for smoother seas. Like quilting, boating is supposed to be fun!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A salty finish

Today's finish is this bright quilt made with the leftover scraps from Cool Cats

That fabric was donated to Kat to be used for Covered In Love, and she passed it along to me for that purpose. It's a really nice line from Henry Glass. 

I cut the remaining scraps into squares and set them on point using a method I wrote about here. The last few focal cats from the panel were framed with black fabric and scattered throughout. I also put all the fabrics with black background around the edges to create a border, and fattened that border up a bit with a polka dot from stash.

While I was taking photos, this boat called "Salty Cat" went by. I got all excited and thought that was a great name for this quilt, but it turns out that I had already named it Night Cats because of the dark fabrics. Not that the name really matters. I have generic labels for my quilts with only my name on them, not the quilt's name. These pieces I make for charities are named for my own amusement and to help me keep track of them.

And speaking of salty cats, Angel is fascinated with all the activity here in the marina in Key West. She peeks out through the cat-sized hawse pipes to watch fish, birds and boats go past.

The backing fabrics were also donated to Kat. They are a stripe and a geometric from a Studio E line, and contain most of the same colors as the front. I had to do some creative piecing to get the right size backing. I'm sorry I only have this one overall photo with the wind blowing up a corner. You can see the details a little better in the next photo.

Kat also sent me some wool batting, so I used that on this quilt. I did floppy feathers in the center and mostly straight, mostly parallel lines in the border. I love how poofy the quilting is using wool! However, all that poofy floof was a little hard to wrangle under the needle. At times it felt like I had a quilt sandwich of two layers of cotton and a Samoyed in there.

A scrappy binding used up the very last pieces of the fabric, and I feel really good about making the best use of this donation. Salty Night Cats will be shipped off to Kat this week, along with my blocks for the latest block drive.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When the going gets tough...

...the tough get sewing. We are finally underway toward Key West after a much longer stay in Fort Lauderdale than expected. We were supposed to have been in the Bahamas a month ago but too many boat problems slowed us way down. If you're interested in the details, you can read our travel log, but suffice it to say that I've had plenty of time to sew while the clock went tick tock tick tock in the boatyard.

After my big push to get a bunch of quilts completely finished and shipped out before we left the country, what bubbled up to the surface in my studio was a bunch of little stuff.

First I stitched up some purple scraps for the February Rainbow Scrap Challenge (RSC). I made string blocks on muslin foundations to go with January's light blue ones.

Then I made a couple of square spiral blocks, one with light neutral around the outside and one with purple. If I make a pair of these in each color, the colors and neutrals should alternate nicely in the final layout.

Next I pieced some 3.5" purple squares into 12"x15" blocks. These will be the backgrounds for this simple cat applique.

The cats this month will be in bright yellows and my plan is to do each month's RSC color as the background with the cats the opposite on the color wheel. I'm going to try the Crafted Applique method for this, but haven't gotten that far yet. We had no running water in the boat for a while so I had no good way to clean up the Modge Podge used in Crafted Applique.

I recently joined the Sunshine Online Quilt Guild and they had a little challenge during the Olympics: sew some blocks in the colors of the Olympic rings.

I pulled out red, yellow, blue, green and black scraps and put together this fast and simple I-spy flimsy.

Since I don't have a lot of black fabric, I used more cheerful yellow. I just love this chicken fabric! This piece will eventually go to Wrap A Smile.

This mini featuring two cat panels was pieced ages ago and keeps getting buried under other projects. I finally sandwiched and quilted it. I FMQ outlined the kitties and did a bit of thread painting on their fur. The border got a simple stipple in variegated thread. A spring green binding finished it up.

It was designed to fit on the small counter right under the toilet paper roll in our bathroom. That surface collects a weird amount of dust, so this mini should hide that. Glamorous, huh? Keepin' it real, here.

And finally, this horizontal wall hanging was made from three leftover blocks from O, Star! I made that quilt for my Mom back in September from the Night Sky pattern by Jaybird Quilts. I just love the saturated brights against black.

Three Stars hangs in our pilot house, directly above the settee and under the air conditioner. I sit on the settee when we are underway. The odd piece of white plastic hanging above the quilt is an air diverter to keep the cold air from blowing on the back of my neck. The string holds it up so the air flows toward the ceiling. It can be removed when not needed. Normally this sort of a/c unit would be much higher, near the 8-10 foot ceilings of a house. But our ceilings are low and the settee is high so I need the diverter. The plastic is ugly, but I'm happy to have the cool air.

I quilted Three Stars similarly to my Mom's piece, with a loopy point to point design in the stars and a couple of FMQ fillers in the black. They are invisible since I used black thread. Oh well, it was good practice and I'm happy with this little finish. It adds a little spark to the room and reminds me of my Mom at the same time!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Swedish Postcards

I am participating in the Postcards From Sweden Quilt Along. In my mind, I call it the "Swedalong," although folks less weird than me are using "PFS QAL." It's not too late to join in with Sandra and the gang if you want to make this fun, bright quilt. My fabrics were all selected from stash, and are mostly prints and blenders with a handful of solids.

The pattern calls for 36 different Kona solids (for my non-quilting readers, Kona is a fabric brand) with names like "Capri" and "Cypress." I had to go through each color name and compare it to the color photos in the pattern to decipher some of them. Both of the above named colors are pale aquas. Who knew? I made a list of all the colors used in the pattern with their translations:

Kona color          Rough translation
1 Lipstick             Red
2 Flame                Red-orange
3 Bright Pink       Red-pink
4 Pomegranate  Red
5 Blue grass        Aqua
6 Fern                   Green
7 Sprout               Yellow-green
8 Citrus                Yellow
9 Lemon              Yellow
10 Peach              Pale orange
11 Mango            Pale orange
12 Kumquat        Dark orange
13 Chartreuse     Yellow-green
14 Leprechaun   Green-yellow
15 Cypress           Pale aqua
16 Lake                Light blue
17 Delft                Dark blue gray
18 Breakers         Blue-aqua
19 Oasis               Dark aqua
20 Royal              Royal blue
21 Capri               Pale aqua
22 Thistle             Pale pink
23 Cerise             Dark red-purple
24 Purple             Dark purple
25 Mulberry        Medium purple
26 Crocus            Medium purple
27 Poppy             Dark red-orange
28 Violet              Medium purple
29 Azalea             Pink
30 Carnation       Pale pink
31 Bubble gum   Pink
32 Candy Pink     Pink
33 Water             Medium blue
34 Carrot             Orange
35 School bus     Orange
36 Pear                Pale green

If you want a PDF file of that chart, just leave me a comment with your email address and I'll send it to you.

I found roughly equivalent fabrics and put them in rainbow order. I do love a good rainbow! However, the pattern refers to each color by number, and the numbers are not necessarily in color order. The dark reddish purple at the end in the photo is number 23 "Cerise," but that became completely irrelevant as the pattern progressed. I made little numbered tags that I attached to each color with Clover clips.

After selecting fabrics, the next step was to cut a certain number of squares from each color. The number of squares ranged from 1 or 2 up to 9. Each square was then cut in half into triangles. I then sorted my triangles in numerical order onto paper plates, being careful to always keep them clipped to their number.

Good thing, too, since I'm kinda clumsy. Oops! Fortunately, my clipped numbers system survived this fall intact and no fabric was harmed nor tempers lost.

Choosing fabrics and cutting the triangles are as far along as the QAL has gone this month, but I was having so much fun that I kept going. I'm really not a quilt along-er so much as a quilt all at once-r. But don't feel bad if you're just cutting your triangles, because that makes you someone who follows directions better than I do.

The pattern next calls for pairs of triangles to be sewn back into squares. I've heard it said that quilting is just cutting up perfectly good fabric so you can sew it right back together again. So true. The pattern lays out the blocks in 15 rows of 12 squares. I chose to sew only one row at a time, and marked each block with numbers 1-12 using blue painters tape. I was able to reuse the tape all the way to row "O" although the tape stickum was pretty wimpy by about row "L."

I can't tell you how many times I almost sewed block 4 to block 7 instead of block 5, or turned a block 90 degrees, so the blue tape kept me on the straight and narrow. After the row was sewn together, I only needed the correct letter, A-O, on the far left block, plus an arrow to show which way I pressed the blocks.

If you're getting ready to sew your PFS QAL blocks, I highly recommend using some sort of consistent numbering or lettering system. And keep in mind that each triangle rotates a quarter turn from all the ones around it. In other words, a block with the diagonal seam going from upper right to lower left ALWAYS joins a block that has the seam going from upper left to lower right. I also noticed that the two-triangle blocks were usually colors fairly close together on the color wheel. If you find yourself sewing together a blue and an orange, double check your numbers! 

I managed to finish piecing all the way to row "N" before I realized I was short a #23 Cerise triangle because it got sewn into the wrong spot earlier. Spoiler alert: I chose to go the Amish route (you know, the myth that the Amish always put a mistake in their quilts because no human is perfect) and left the mistake in as a mark of humility. Or laziness. Or OMG THERE ARE SO MANY TRIANGLES NO ONE WILL NOTICE ONE MISTAKE!!